Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2000's: Worst decade ever!

From the good folks at

Saturday, December 26, 2009

State Sovereignty Group Supports Lawsuit Against Obamacare

In my post four days ago I said to expect lawsuits challenging Obamacare's constitutionality. Well, the ink is barely dry on the recently-passed Senate bill and the lawsuits are gearing up already. The Utah-based Patrick Henry Caucus may be the first one to challenge the (sure to be signed) new law. Here's their press release from today:


Leading state sovereignty caucus strongly opposes the federal health care bill and supports lawsuits based on two violations of the U.S. Constitution.

The Patrick Henry Caucus adopted a unanimous position Wednesday, December 23, 2009, to oppose the Health Care Reform Bills, and to support a lawsuit against the federal government in order to stop the national health care bill from becoming law.

Calling the law unconstitutional, The Patrick Henry Caucus, which is comprised of legislators from both the Utah House of Representatives and the Utah Senate, vows to fight the federal law on multiple fronts. The Patrick Henry Caucus has an opt-out provision drafted and ready for presentation to the Utah Legislature next month. The opt-out would make it illegal for Utah agencies to implement any portion of the new federal law. The Caucus is calling on the State of Utah to join in with other States and take the lead on filing a lawsuit to stop the bill, should it receive final approval.

The Caucus believes the law is unconstitutional in at least two respects. First, the law unfairly gives preferential treatment to residents of Nebraska as a result of efforts by Senate Democrats to court the vote of Nebraska Senator Ben Campbell. The Caucus
believes that this preferential treatment violates principles of due process and equal protection and is therefore unconstitutional under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.

Second, the law amounts to an excess of Congress’s enumerated powers inasmuch as it requires every American to acquire health insurance. This legislation marks the first time in history that Congress has required every single American to purchase a particular good or service, and cannot be reconciled with the notion that Congress possesses only those limited powers granted by the Constitution.

The Patrick Henry Caucus calls on the leaders from all States to join in the effort to file a lawsuit against the federal government in order to stop this wrongheaded piece of legislation. We must not allow Congress to commandeer one sixth of our nation’s fragile economy while simultaneously undermining the authority of the States.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Three Reasons To Oppose Obamacare

It appears that the clock is ticking toward a Christmas Eve vote on the U.S. Senate's healthcare "reform" bill. As I see it there are three primary reasons not to like this monstrosity.

1. It's unconstitutional.

Before Congress passes any legislation, it should first ask itself: "Does the Constitution allow this?" Apparently this doesn't even cross their minds anymore.

The Constitution gives Congress absolutely NO authority over healthcare. As I've written before at length, the often pointed-to general welfare and commerce clauses do not give Congress free rein to meddle in every aspect of the American peoples' day-to-day lives.

When this onerous bill does pass, expect numerous court challenges to the new law. Since it is mainly liberals pushing for this government takeover of the medical industry, it is ironic that one of their favorite Supreme Court rulings, Roe v. Wade, may help hasten its downfall. It's hard to reason that the doctor-patient relationship is shielded by some sacred right to privacy from government intrusion when an abortion is being performed, but not when a colonoscopy or hip replacement is.

Whatever parts of the bill that the courts don't swat down, the states may be willing to mop up themselves. As reported earlier, many states are set to pass laws nullifying the new healthcare law. The Tenth Amendment Center, which tracks state nullification laws, expects 20 to 25 states to consider such legislation in 2010. If enough states dig in their heels in resistance, they may be able to smother the new healthcare reform in the cradle, as they did with the Real ID law.

2. We can't afford it.

The U.S. government is currently over $12 Trillion in debt. That is $39,435 in public debt for every man, woman and child in America. The future benefits that the government has already promised to American citizens for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicare drug benefits (with no way to pay them) amounts to $106 Trillion. That's $346,049 in unfunded liabilities for every living soul in America. The Chinese and the rest of the world are growing weary of financing our debt.

No organization that is that far in the hole should be starting any massive new entitlement program. In November the Congressional Budget Office figured that the Senate healthcare reform bill would cost $849 billion over the next decade. One thing we should learn from previous government spending programs, whatever they say it may cost, the actual price tag will be much, much higher.

3. It won't work as advertised.

As Don Racheter, PhD points out in a recent Institute Brief for the Public Policy Institute at Iowa Wesleyan College: "Those who favor a 'public option' (read government-controlled medicine) are ignoring all the problems in the Social Security Disability program, Veteran’s Hospital system, Medicare, and Medicaid and want to extend these failed government regimes to the rest of us. Those pushing for more socialized medicine refuse to acknowledge that things controlled by government (such as the Post Office, Amtrak, government-run schools, etc.) continue to decline in quality while costing more and more. In contrast, products produced in the competitive private sector (I-pods, cell phones, computers, etc.) continue to improve in quality and decline in price."

In another brief Racheter rightly concludes that we need "reforms that involve choice, competition, and consumer-driven plans, rather than more coercion, control, and central planning. And let the states be 'laboratories of democracy' which try different plans to see what works – and what doesn’t – before we legislate a 'one size fits all' plan from Congress."

He continues: "Indiana seems to have had success with a reform plan which includes an insurance pool for small businesses, tax incentives for employers who offer health-care insurance, free preventive care, a health-savings account, and annual insurance coverage from a private company. Texas has been doing tort reform since 1995 which has resulted in lower medical malpractice rates and more doctors starting to practice in the state. Massachusetts, on the other hand, has had a plan in operation since 2006 which mandates everyone buy a state approved health-insurance plan or pay a fine. The Indiana and Texas plans seem to be accomplishing their goals, while costs in Massachusetts continue to rise without accomplishing universal coverage. So why are all the plans currently being considered in Congress using the latter approach rather than the former?!" Good question.

Someday, when our soon-to-be enacted healthcare plan fails, we'll need to spend even more money (that we won't have) to "rescue" an unconstitutional travesty that never should have been. If our children or grandchildren don't revolt and hang us, they don't deserve the title "Americans."

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Regulators Delay Vote On Medical Marijuana

The Iowa Board of Pharmacy held hearings around the state to gather public sentiment on legalizing medical marijuana for prescription use. Sounds like they got an earful.

From the

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — State regulators have delayed a vote on the medical use of marijuana until February after being swamped with opinions.

The Iowa Board of Pharmacy planned to vote this month on whether to recommend that the Legislature legalize marijuana for medical problems. The board on Monday delayed a decision until Feb. 17 to give its members time read 12,000 pages of written comments.

I'm not sure why this is even an issue, other than the inertia of seventy-some years of prohibition.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

10 Questions with TAC founder Michael Boldin

Michael Boldin is the founder of the Tenth Amendment Center (TAC). According to its website: "The Tenth Amendment Center works to preserve and protect Tenth Amendment freedoms through information and education. The center serves as a forum for the study and exploration of state and individual sovereignty issues, focusing primarily on the decentralization of federal government power."

Boldin was raised in Milwaukee Wisconsin, but now lives in Los Angeles. In addition to his duties at TAC, he is a contributing writer for

Cold Hard Cashner recently interviewed him via email.

1.What is the 10th Amendment?

Boldin: The 10th is the defining amendment of the Constitution - its exclamation point! It's a "rule of construction" which makes clear that it was "We the People," as sovereigns, who created the federal government to be our agent for certain, enumerated purposes..and nothing more.

2. Why should the average American care about it?

Boldin: If there's anything people should learn from history is that a government without limits is a tyranny.

3. There have been many federal programs, from Social Security to Cash For Clunkers, that are apparently popular but probably wouldn't survive a literal interpretation of the 10th Amendment and the rest of the Constitution. Why should the American people be willing to support strict adherence to the Constitution if they may potentially lose federal programs they appreciate?

Boldin: For years and years, people have allowed politicians to bend or break "the rules" (that is, the Constitution) for one "emergency" or another. But the bottom line is this - after years and years of allowing politicians to break the rules, eventually you'll end up with politicians who feel that the rules don't apply at all. Arbitrary government - government without rules - is another name for despotism.

4.What is the Tenth Amendment Center? What are its goals?

Boldin: I created the Tenth Amendment Center (TAC) in mid-2006 and launched the website,, in January 2007. It was my way of recognizing that it doesn't matter which political party has the power in D.C. - year in and year out, the power of the federal government continues to grow while your liberties are increasingly lost. It's essential that people in this country understand the principles that the founders and ratifiers passed on to us - that a government without limits is a tyranny.

Our goals? Oh, they're pretty small - we just want to empower you - and millions of others - to understand the principles of the Constitution and liberty. That way you can take that knowledge and take action.

5.What motivated you to found T.A.C.?

Bolden: see above

6.Media Matters For America, a "progressive research and information center," recently castigated T.A.C. for reprinting several articles on its website that mention secession. Are the "Tenthers" (as 10th Amendment supporters are sometimes called) some type of secessionist movement?

Boldin: Yes, they sure did. They were angry that Lou Dobbs would interview the founder of such an awful organization as TAC!

The essential thing here is that this country was founded on the principle of secession, and while the Tenth Amendment Center is advocating adherence to the Constitution - which is the only that this country won't fall to pieces - we still feel it's essential to discuss and explore this important part of our American tradition.

I wonder - would Media Matters, if they were around in the 18th century, have castigated Thomas Paine, or Thomas Jefferson, or Patrick Henry for simply talking about breaking away from "The Crown?" Seems to me that the cheerleaders for tyranny never really go away...they just change faces.

7.Here in Iowa we had a "state sovereignty resolution" introduced in the Iowa legislature this year. Similar measures are popping up all over the country. What is the purpose of these resolutions?

Boldin: These non-binding resolutions, often called “state sovereignty resolutions” do not carry the force of law. Instead, they are intended to be a statement of the legislature of the state. They play an important role, however.

If you owned an apartment building and had a tenant not paying rent, you wouldn’t show up with an empty truck to kick them out without first serving notice. That’s how we view these Resolutions – as serving “notice and demand” to the Federal Government to “cease and desist any and all activities outside the scope of their constitutionally-delegated powers.” Follow-up, of course, is a must.

8.What are "interposition" and "nullification?" What are the differences between them?

Boldin: Some would say they are virtually the same in practice - they are the principle that the State governments are to resist unconstitutional laws and regulations emanating from the federal government.

When a state ‘nullifies’ a federal law, it is proclaiming that the law in question is void and inoperative, or ‘non-effective,’ within the boundaries of that state; or, in other words, not a law as far as that state is concerned. The state apparatus, then, would "interpose," or stand between you and the federal government to protect your liberty.

9.Isn't it up to the U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether or not a law is unconstitutional?

Boldin: Sure - that's just what kings and tyrants all through history have always wanted. And that's probably why most of us who've gone through government-schools come out believing that a branch of government filled with unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats would be the one determining how much power the other branches of that same government would have. Absurd, really. James Madison and Thomas Jefferson warned us that if the federal government would ever have the exclusive right to judge the extent of its own powers, its power would continue to grow – regardless of elections, the separation of powers, and other much-touted limits on government power. Sure sounds familiar to me.

10.What can people do to help rescue the 10th Amendment from obscurity?

Boldin: Get informed. Get others informed. Get active - and most of all - recognize that the Constitution isn't a conservative or a liberal document. It's there to ensure the powers of the federal government are limited - and the most difficult, the most divisive issues would be handled where they can be handled best ... close to home.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Growing Movement to Nullify Nat'l Health Care

[From our friends at the Tenth Amendment Center. Reprinted with permission.]

by Michael Boldin

In response to what some opponents see as a Congress that doesn’t represent their interests, State Legislators are looking to the nearly forgotten American political tradition of nullification as a way to reject any potential national health care program that may be coming from Washington.

In 2010, residents of Arizona will be voting on a State Constitutional Amendment that would let them effectively opt out of any proposed national health care plan. Legislatures in Florida, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania are also considering similar State Constitutional Amendments.

And now, Missouri is joining them. According to a report in The Missourian, “Rep. Cynthia Davis, R-O’Fallon, pre-filed a bill Dec. 1 that, if approved by voters, would effectively put a halt on any national health care legislation. Davis said her intent was to give voters a way to protect themselves.”


The bill, HJR48, “Proposes a constitutional amendment which would prohibit compelling a person to participate in any health care system.”

It states:

“To preserve the freedom of citizens of this state to provide for their health care, no law or rule shall compel, directly or indirectly or through penalties or fines, any person, employer, or health care provider to participate in any health care system. A person or employer may pay directly for lawful health care services and shall not be required to pay penalties or fines for paying directly for lawful health care services. A health care provider may accept direct payment for lawful health care services and shall not be required to pay penalties or fines for accepting direct payment from a person or employer for lawful health care services. Subject to reasonable and necessary rules that do not substantially limit a person’s options, the purchase or sale of health insurance in private health care systems shall not be prohibited by law or rule.”


The principle behind such legislation is nullification, which has a long history in the American tradition. When a state ‘nullifies’ a federal law, it is proclaiming that the law in question is void and inoperative, or ‘non-effective,’ within the boundaries of that state; or, in other words, not a law as far as the state is concerned.

Early nullification movements began with the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of 1798. These resolutions, secretly authored by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, asserted that the people of the states, as sovereign entities, could judge for themselves whether the federal government had overstepped its constitutional bounds – to the point of ignoring federal laws.

Virginia and Kentucky passed the resolutions in response to the federal Alien and Sedition Acts, which provided, in part, for the prosecution of anyone who criticized Congress or the President of the United States.

Nullification was regularly called upon by states all over the country in response to everything from higher taxes to the fugitive slave law of 1850.


Besides the Health Care legislation in Arizona, activists and state-legislators are pushing forward with nullification efforts all across the country – and it spans the political spectrum.

Thirteen states now have some form of medical marijuana laws – in direct contravention to federal laws which state that the plant is illegal in all circumstances. Massive state nullification of the 2005 Real ID Act has rendered the law nearly void. And, two states, Montana and Tennessee, have already passed laws nullifying federal gun laws and regulations within their states.


“We (Missourians) don’t like it when people try to take away our freedom,” Davis told The Missoulian. “We will maintain the right to purchase health care however we chose. This national health care debate is not about health care as much as it is about redistribution of the wealth. This resolution allows voters to say don’t redistribute our wealth here in Missouri.”

George Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers, in an interview with the Atlanta Business Chronicle said, “Proposals to deny or limit access to the purchase of private health care are simply unacceptable. Our basic freedoms are at risk with the government-run health care proposals coming out of Washington.” Legislators from Georgia recently announced that they would be introducing a similar resolution in 2010.


Supporters of modern nullification efforts look to the successful rebellion by states against the Bush-era Real ID Act.

In early 2007, Maine and then Utah passed resolutions refusing to implement the federal Real ID act on grounds that the law was unconstitutional. Well-over a dozen other states followed suit in passing legislation opposing Real ID.

Instead of attempting to force the law to implementation, the federal government delayed implementation not once, but twice. And in June of this year, the Obama administration, recognizing the insurmountable task of enforcing a law in the face of such broad resistance, announced that it was looking to “repeal and replace” the controversial law.

Supporters see this as a blueprint to resist various federal laws that they see as outside the scope of the Constitution. Some say that each successful state-level resistance to federal programs will only embolden others to try the same – resulting in an eventual shift of power from the federal government to the States and the People themselves.

Michael Boldin is the founder of the Tenth Amendment Center

Copyright © 2009 by Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Fight Terrorism With Freedom

Once again I'm responding to a column in the newspaper. I sent the following to my hometown paper:

I felt compelled to respond to the recent column by retired Army Colonel Clyde Meyer about militant Islam. I agree with Col. Meyer that Islam has a long history of violence. I also agree with his point that throughout history there have been fanatics from all religions who have used violence to advance their cause. Where I begin to disagree with the good Colonel is how best to fight Islamic extremists today.

Let me preface this by saying that, as a former military member myself, I am not reflexively anti-war. I understand its utility and occasional necessity, but I am not reflexively for war either. While I’ll leave the foreign policy side of the debate for another day, I would encourage anyone interested in the subject to read the book Imperial Hubris by CIA veteran Michael Scheuer for a thoughtful analysis of the motives of the Islamic terrorists.

Colonel Meyer states that since some terrorists have reached American soil they need to be “weeded out” through “counter-insurgency measures.” He casually shrugs off potential violations of the U.S. Constitution that he once swore an oath to defend. (As Republican activist and former-Marine Bill Salier likes to point out, that oath has no expiration date.) Meyer writes that the measures he endorses include “the control of people and resources and can infringe on some of the individual rights to which we are entitled by our constitution.”

Before we unleash the counter-insurgency tactics that we employed in Vietnam and Iraq on the American public, perhaps we could try something else: Freedom. I believe that we can defend ourselves against those who would harm us not by destroying our individual liberties but by defending them and expanding them.

For instance, Meyer mentions the recent Fort Hood attack by a suspected jihadist. Soldiers on that base were, as a matter of policy, denied the Second Amendment right to carry firearms that people elsewhere in Texas and 39 other states currently enjoy. That section of Ft. Hood (like Columbine and Virginia Tech) had become a “gun-free zone,” a proven magnet for mass murderers.

The same could also be said of the September 11th attacks. Government restrictions on the rights of Americans turned airliners into “gun-free zones” and government policy dictated that crews and passengers not resist hijackers. If people had been allowed to resist (as those on Flight 93 did anyway) or if the pilots had been allowed to keep pistols in the cockpit (as was common practice until the 1960’s) then 19 terrorists probably wouldn’t have been able to kill 2,976 Americans armed only with box cutters.

These are just two quick examples of how the answer is more freedom, not less. On this issue, as on many issues, the best thing the government can do for the American people is to stay out of our way. Surrendering our freedom and power to the government in exchange for promises of security ensures that the government will always find new threats so as to expand its power.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The "Cop Killer" of Ft. Hood

As I was reading Wednesday’s Cedar Rapids Gazette I came across a letter to the editor calling for more gun control in the wake of the Ft. Hood tragedy. Although I occasionally respond to official editorials or columns, I try not use this forum to criticize letters to the editor from private individuals because I think citizens on ALL sides of a debate should feel empowered and encouraged to express their views in the local paper. That is the First Amendment and America at its best.

The letter that caught my eye, however, was written by John Johnson, the former director of the defunded, debunked and now defunct group Iowans for the Prevention of Gun Violence, and was signed as such. Since he is no mere civilian who wandered onto the ideological battlefield of gun control, but a former field-grade officer in the opposing army, I’ll make an exception in Mr. Johnson’s case.

Mr. Johnson writes that the Ft. Hood shootings took place because “(e)asy access to high-capacity, semi-automatic handguns that can be concealed on the person means that any angry individual with a grudge can commit mass murder wherever people gather — even military bases.”

Really? Wherever people gather? How come I never hear of some nut attempting a mass shooting at a gun show or a shooting range or an NRA convention? The fact is that just about any shooting massacre that you can name (Ft. Hood, Columbine, Virginia Tech, etc…) took place in a so-called “gun free zone.” In a sad bit of irony, even our army posts are now mostly “gun free zones.”

The habit of gun control advocates, like Mr. Johnson, of serving up disarmed victims in designated areas actually encourages sociopaths to go on shooting sprees, knowing that they can rack up a lot of kills before armed authorities can arrive. Since Texas has many civilians who carry firearms, if Major Hassan had tried his rampage anywhere besides a “gun free zone,” an armed Texan may well have “killed him back” (to borrow Ron White’s phrase) before he could do so much damage.

Attempting to put the blame for the Ft. Hood shooting on an inanimate object, rather than the nut (or perhaps jihadist) pulling the trigger, Mr. Johnson continues: “One of the weapons used in the Fort Hood shooting was an FN Five-seveN pistol […]. This gun was originally designed for military use, but is also sold on the U.S. civilian gun market. The manufacturer says this gun fires ammunition capable of piercing body armor. Who wears body armor? Law officers. So the FN Five-seveN pistol is for killing cops.” His comments appear to be part of a larger orchestrated effort, since all the major gun control groups recently sent a letter to President Obama asking him to ban the import of the Belgium-made Five-seveN.

The “armor piercing” version of ammunition for the Five-seveN (and for all handguns, for that matter) that Mr. Johnson refers to is already banned in the United States. Your side won that battle long ago, Mr. Johnson! If the laws that the gun control advocates fight so passionately to enact are so ineffectual once implemented that they are unnoticeable and forgotten even by themselves, why do they push for more of the same?

Perhaps Mr. Johnson gets his information from Josh Sugarmann of the Violence Policy Center, one of the nation’s leading peddlers of anti-gun propaganda. In a recent Huffington Post article, Sugarmann claims that in a quick Internet search he found two vendors selling “banned” ammunition for the Five-seveN. But the SS192 hollow point ammo that the vendors were selling is listed on the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives website as “not AP.” It wasn’t really “banned” either, the manufacturer merely stopped shipping that particular type to the U.S., replacing it with the newer SS196 ammo.

Far from being the death-spewing monster that Johnson and Sugarmann depict, the Five-seveN fires a rather diminutive 5.7 mm round. Bob Owens at Pajamas Media convincingly makes the case that if Major Hasan had armed himself with a man’s weapon, rather than the media-hyped Five-seveN, the ratio of killed to wounded would have been much worse.

“[A] high-velocity bullet that only weighs 40 grains (as does the legal SS197SR bullet Hasan used) is at a distinct disadvantage when compared to other pistol cartridges,” writes Owens. “Slower, heavier bullets such as those found in the .40 S&W and .45 ACP hollow point cartridges favored by American law enforcement dump most if not all of their energy in the human body. The difference between a wound from a 5.7 bullet and a .45 ACP is not dissimilar to the difference between the wound from an ice pick and the wound from a sledgehammer. The ice pick will penetrate far deeper, but the sledgehammer will cause far more traumatic injuries.” (None of this is to imply that the Five-seveN is less-than-lethal, just that it’s not super-lethal.)

Owens also pointed out one more salient fact. The FN Herstal Five-seveN, that much-vaunted “cop killer” of Johnson and Sugarmann’s imaginations, has never actually killed a cop in the United States. “So far there is just one known shooting of a police officer with this weapon, and that occurred at Fort Hood,” states Owens. “Kim Munley, one of two officers who engaged Hasan, was shot in each leg and her wrist, but was wonderfully alive and able to appear on Oprah a week later.”

I guess gun control activists can’t let little things like facts stand in the way of their agendas.

Friday, November 20, 2009

"Free Market Makes a Lot of Sense"

Here's an excerpt from my column in today's Cedar Rapids Gazette:

"President Obama’s 'manufacturing czar,' Ron Bloom, raised a few eyebrows when he stated that 'the free market is nonsense.' If the waning months of the Bush administration are any indication, the leaders of both major parties now basically share this philosophy. That’s a pity.

"Our 'nonsensical' free (though increasingly regulated) market has given the U.S. one of the highest standards of living in the world. [...]

"If we don’t have a free-market economy, then we have a command economy wherein government regulators control wages, prices and production rates. (Sure, it’s a sliding scale between the two, but an administration that views one end as 'nonsense' will obviously only let us slide one way.)

"When I was young, the Soviet Union was the ultimate embodiment of a command economy.

"I spent some time there in the summer of 1991 as a student ambassador. My three weeks there don’t make me an expert on all things Soviet, but it was eye-opening for a 16-year-old Iowa farm boy.

"I saw the blocks-long lines of people waiting for bread and other necessities. I toured the GUM department store in Moscow. We were told it was the largest department store in the world. Its shelves were bare."

You can read the entire article here.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

NRA Onboard for Iowa Weapons Reform Battle

Regular readers of this blog know that Iowa is one of only 13 states that doesn’t have a “shall issue” law for permits to carry weapons (or that require no permit at all). Iowa has a “may issue” law, which means that the county sheriff may issue to qualified applicants or he may not.

Some sheriffs issue permits to all who qualify, while others choose not to issue them at all. Training requirements vary widely between counties. This disparity between citizens of different counties seems to run counter to the Iowa Constitution’s directive that state laws “shall have a uniform operation” and shall apply equally to all Iowa citizens.

Since 2005, the pro-freedom group Iowa Carry (IC) has fought a lonely battle trying to bring uniformity to Iowa’s weapons laws, while America’s most powerful lobbying organization, the National Rifle Association (NRA), has focused its attention elsewhere. Now, however, it appears that the NRA may finally have its big political guns trained on Iowa and is ready to roar into action.

In a recent email update to supporters, Iowa Carry president Sean McClanahan announced a tentative agreement between IC and NRA to work together for weapons carry reform in the coming year.

Iowa Carry has identified five key principals that it believes must be part of any weapons carry reform bill in Iowa: 1) It must be “shall issue.” 2) It must standardize training statewide. 3) It must contain a reciprocity provision recognizing the carry permits of certain other states. [Many states will only recognize Iowa-issued permits if we reciprocate.] 4) It must have an appeals process for denied permits. 5) It must maintain the privacy of the confidential information of permit holders.

The bill that NRA and IC will be supporting will address all five issues. The groups are currently lining up key Iowa legislators to introduce and support the bill in 2010.

If you want to stay informed on this effort as it progresses you can join Iowa Carry’s online forum for free, as well as their Facebook group. Better yet, join Iowa Carry as a supporting member for only $25 a year so that they will have the resources necessary for the upcoming reform battle.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

10 Questions with Gubernatorial Candidate Eric Cooper

Eric Cooper of Ames and Nick Weltha of Des Moines have filed papers to seek the Iowa Libertarian Party’s 2010 nomination for Governor and Lt. Governor respectively. Cooper, 43, is an Associate Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Iowa State University, and is currently the Vice Chairman of the Libertarian Party of Iowa. Professor Cooper was gracious enough to answer a few questions for Cold Hard Cashner via email.

Here they are:

1. How did you get involved in politics and the Libertarian Party?

I joined the party in high school after I read a pamphlet that was available in one of my government classes. When I read the pamphlet describing the Libertarian Party's positions, I realized that they were pretty much saying everything I already agreed with. My second year as a professor at Iowa State, I was approached by a student who wanted to start a Libertarian group on campus and wanted me to be the adviser because I was one of only two faculty members who were paid members of the party. As a result of being the adviser for the Iowa State Libertarians, I started going to Libertarian State Conventions and eventually got elected to the state party's Executive Board, and decided to start running for office.

2. What made you decide to run for governor?

I have run for the state legislature five times previously from Ames, and in 2008, I had the most successful Libertarian campaign in the state (21% of the vote). I thought, given the experience I've gained campaigning for the legislature, that I was in the best position of anyone currently involved with the state party to run for Governor.

3. It’s unlikely you’ll win. Why should people vote for you?

Third parties can get everything they want without winning any elections at all. The Populists in the 1890s and the Socialists in the 1910s won almost no elections, and yet most of the major planks of their platforms were eventually implemented. The way these parties were successful was to draw enough votes away from the major parties on a regular basis that the major parties started stealing their issues in order to get their voters. This strategy can still work today, and is most effective when the major parties are ignoring a particular constituency (which currently would be people who want to reduce the size of government). If Libertarians can get 10% of the vote on a regular basis, that is enough to decide most elections between the major party candidates and will lead the major party candidates to start stealing our issues.

The reason it is important for people to vote for me for Governor is because under Iowa law, if the top candidate on a party's ticket (which is the President during Presidential election years and the Governor in non-Presidential election years like 2010) gets 2% of the vote, that gives the party major party status in Iowa. If I get 2% of the vote, the Libertarian Party gains major party status meaning that we no longer have to petition to get our candidates on the ballot, thus making it far easier for us to run lots of candidates putting lots of pressure on the major parties to steal our issues.

4. Iowa has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation. Iowa is one of only 14 states that requires a special permit to acquire a handgun. It is one of only 13 states that doesn’t have “shall issue” laws requiring that weapons carry permits be issued to applicants who meet uniform standards. What changes would you like to see in Iowa’s weapons laws and what could you do as governor to facilitate them?

Laws are, of course, a matter for the legislature, however as Governor, one can certainly make suggestions to the legislature about what sorts of legislation might be a good idea. I don't think there should be restrictions on peaceful people owning any sort of gun, and I think they should be able to carry those guns concealed if they so choose.

5. Because of the Iowa high court’s recent decision, gay marriage has come to the forefront of political discussion. What is your position on gay marriage and what (if anything) would you do as governor regarding this issue?

People come to America in order to follow their own cultural traditions. Peaceful people should be able to have whatever relations with other people that they would like, and they should be able to call them whatever they like. The government goes well beyond its enumerated powers when it starts deciding what does and does not constitute marriage.

6. There is currently some discussion of allowing medical marijuana to be used with a prescription in Iowa. Do you support this effort and what other changes in this area would you like to see?

I would support the legalization of medical marijuana, recreational marijuana, ornamental marijuana, and pretty much anything else that someone would like to do with marijuana. It is absolutely contradictory to the notion of a free society that the government should be dictating to adult citizens what they may or may not place into their own bodies. The drugs that are currently illegal are far less dangerous than many activities that are permitted (driving private automobiles and alcohol use are good examples), but because drug users are in the minority, the activities that they enjoy are made illegal while more dangerous activities that the majority likes are permitted. My first act as Governor would be to pardon all non-violent drug offenders currently in Iowa prisons. If the founding fathers of the United States were to see the sort of government we have today, I don't think anything would shock them more than that we would allow the government to tell adult citizens what they are allowed to consume. One cannot honestly call oneself a free man when one has lost the right to decide what goes into one's own body

7. On your website you say that “Iowa is currently doing education in about the most inefficient way possible.” How so and how would you remedy that?

The government is a monopoly and, like all monopolies, it has very little incentive to be cost effective and very little incentive to please its customers. In education, we have a market that should be extremely competitive if its provisioning was left to the free market because it is relatively inexpensive to start a school so there would be lots of competition among schools. The more competitive a market is, the more benefits one gets by having the free market supply a good or service, so having education provided by the free market would be the number one way we could improve education in the state. Unfortunately, the state's involvement in education has made the education market a virtual monopoly which is exactly the sort of situation that produces goods and services inefficiently.

The best way to improve education in the state is to attach a certain amount of money to the child to help pay for his or her education. The child can take that money to any school: a private school, a homeschool, and can even use it at the current public schools if the child's parents wish. However, all schools will be funded on exactly the same basis: they will only receive the money attached to the children who attend them. Such a system allows the government to help pay for education while getting all the benefits of a highly competitive market.

8. Fireworks have been illegal in Iowa since the 1930’s. It’s now a time-honored tradition for Iowans of all ages to flagrantly flout that law by bringing fireworks in from neighboring states and lighting them off for Independence Day. Why would you want to hinder such a beautiful annual display of civil disobedience by legalizing fireworks?

Yes, I suppose there is a vicarious thrill in breaking unjust laws for some people. Much better not to have such laws on the books in the first place, however. Getting rid of the fireworks ban is one of the key issues in our campaign because I think it symptomatic of a larger problem that when safety and freedom conflict, the laws always come down on the side of safety even though we supposedly live in the land of the free (not the land of the safe). However, the purpose of our lives is not to be as safe as possible, but to be as happy as possible. When I was growing up in Kansas, one of my favorite activities was shooting fireworks on the 4th of July, and it is really sad that the kids of our state don't have that chance. Being safe is a part of being happy, but when you are reducing the amount of happiness in your life to make remote dangers even more remote, that is a really bad trade-off.

9. What are some of the other priorities for you and your running mate?

Our top goal is to get the 2% we need to give the Libertarian Party of Iowa major party status in Iowa. If we can do that, it will allow us to put a lot more pressure on the major parties by running more candidates which is what we have to do in order to get the major parties to start addressing our issues.

The next goal is to keep the idea of Jeffersonian Democracy alive in the United States. Libertarianism is the political philosophy of Thomas Jefferson and the essence of the philosophy is that we have a limited government that is only permitted to perform a small set enumerated functions, and that we are a free people meaning that if you aren't hurting others or their property, you should be able to conduct your life however you want. Our government now is so different from how it was originally conceived, and currently appears to have almost no limits on what it may do nor any respect for the freedom of its citizens. I want people to understand and remember the vision the founding fathers had for America, and, even if I'm the last free man left, I'm going to stand up and protest every single encroachment on that freedom.

10. What can people do to help your campaign?

As with all campaigns, we are limited in what we can do by the amount of contributions that we are able to get, so one thing is to visit our website ( and donate.

If you can't afford a donation, we are going to start visiting cities all over Iowa beginning this summer. We need volunteers in as many cities as possible who are interested in helping us to promote our visits by posting fliers, chalking, and telling local papers and radio stations about us. Anyone interested in being our representative in their city should e-mail me at

Friday, November 6, 2009

"Fort Hood: Death by Gun Control"

Excerpts from the article by Howard Nemerov at
"Yesterday at Fort Hood, disgruntled Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan murdered 12 soldiers and wounded 31 others before being shot and captured.

"These soldiers were entrusted to carry fully automatic, military assault rifles when deployed to Afghanistan, where the shooter was about to be sent. But in America, these same soldiers are disarmed when on base. From the Associated Press: 'Soldiers at Fort Hood don't carry weapons unless they are doing training exercises.' [...]

"In his book The Bias Against Guns, John Lott examined the relationship between the presence of legally-carried firearms and multiple murders. He concluded: 'If right-to-carry laws [legal concealed carry of handguns] allow citizens to limit the amount of attacks that still take place, the number of persons harmed should fall relative to the number of shootings… And indeed, that is what we find. The average number of people dying or becoming injured per attack declines by around 50 percent.'

"Lott also found that both the total number and rate of multiple murders in right-to-carry states are one-third that of restrictive states. In an email interview, he clarified this data by stating: 'The simplest numbers showed a 67 percent drop in the number of attacks and a 79 percent decrease in the number of people killed or injured from such attacks. The number of people harmed fell by more than the number of attacks because some attacks that weren't deterred were stopped in progress by people with guns.' [...]

"[Police SWAT-expert Ron] Borsch notes that nearly all mass murders occur in places where law-abiding citizens are banned from possessing firearms, either by property owners or government regulation.

"Off-base, soldiers over age 20 are eligible under Texas law to carry a concealed handgun."

Read the entire article here.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Iowa Libertarians On The Ballot

In tomorrow's election there will be a few Libertarian Party candidates scattered around the state. Here are the ones that I've heard about:

  1. Nick Tabier, running for Cedar Falls city council (at large)- Says Tabier's website: "Cedar Falls is a great place to live, and keeping it great requires initiative, fresh thinking, and a willingness to listen to ideas from everyone. I will bring unique perspective, bountiful energy, and careful leadership to the Cedar Falls City Council."
  2. Bill Lynn, running for Davenport 5th Ward Alderman (incumbent)- Lynn is endorsed by the Quad City Times and has been serving for six years. Says The Times: "Bill Lynn has earned a fourth term. The St. Ambrose professor seems to have anchored his academic ideals to some street-level reality through his support of some smart initiatives, including the micro-loan program to foster minority business development. "
  3. Roger Fritz, running for Roland Iowa mayor- A electronic communications engineer, Fritz previously served as a Roland city councilman from 1999 to 2007.

Although it's not until next year, Eric Cooper and Nick Weltha are the Libertarian candidates for Iowa Governor and Lieutenant Governor, respectively. Cooper is an Associate Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Iowa State University. Weltha is a System Administrator for the Iowa Judicial Branch.

If you're tired of politics as usual from the two big-box parties, please vote for and support Iowa's Libertarian candidates.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Beth Cody on Rifle Marksmanship

One of my favorite local writers (besides myself) is Beth Cody, who writes a monthly opinion column with a libertarian perspective for the Iowa City Press-Citizen. In this month's column Beth writes about her experience going to an "Appleseed Project" training event for rifle marksmanship.

According to Cody, "The program attempts to teach the vital rifle skills that used to be common and that won our nation its freedom, but that are disappearing from our national general knowledge."

Why are rifle skills important to the average citizen? Cody writes: "The founding fathers of our country understood that the best way to safeguard the liberty of citizens was to leave most power with the citizens and divide government power between levels and branches. Similarly, gun ownership and skills, being a bulwark of liberty, should be broadly spread among the majority of citizens. In many countries, dictators take power by gaining control of the military or police, leaving an unarmed populace with no recourse. This would be more difficult to do in America, where half of households own firearms."

You can read Cody's Press-Citizen column here. She also wrote a good gun-related article shortly after the Virginia Tech shootings, which you can read here.

You can also learn more about the Appleseed Project here. I didn't see any more shooting events in Iowa on their schedule, but they'll be back next year. Although I'm fairly comfortable with a rifle, I think I'll go to an Appleseed event for a refresher. I haven't had any formal rifle training since I was a young kid in boot camp.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

State Cuts 10%; Culver Fiddles

I couldn’t help but notice the irony in the title of O. Kay Henderson’s Radio Iowa report titled, “Agencies submit cuts; governor rides rails.” That sounds pretty similar to “Rome burns; Nero fiddles.”

I'm not saying that the current state budget cuts are as bad as Rome burning, of course. As far as I’m concerned they should cut the budget even more. But I do appreciate the irony in the fact that as current state services are being cut, Governor Culver is joyriding on a train, showing where he wants to dump even more taxpayer money to feed his railroad fetish.

Not wanting to prioritize, Culver made the 10% cut across-the-board. Cuts would include laying off 44 law enforcement officers (including 20 State Troopers, whose manpower was already at a 45 year low) and a fire inspector at the Dept. of Public Safety. The Quad City Times reports that the cuts will also have a “devastating impact” on the function of Iowa’s court system.

In terms of layoffs, the Department of Corrections will be the hardest hit with 515 jobs lost. "The impact will affect all departments in every level of service," said corrections officials. "A reduced workforce will create serious safety concerns for the public, staff and offenders within the maximum security facility. In line with the security concern is the closing of four towers."

Cops, courts and corrections sound like legitimate core functions of the state government to me. Should they really be cut at the exact same percentage as, say, the Department of Cultural Affairs or Iowa Public Television?

“The other neat thing we’re doing is we’ll be able to invest in the depots and modernize them,” Culver states in the Radio Iowa article. One such depot is the one in Osceola which is currently undergoing a $600,000 renovation. “And they’re bringing that historic place, you know, back to life,” said Culver.

Play your fiddle, Sir. Do you know "I’ve Been Working On the Railroad?"

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Press-Citizen Guest Opinion

Last Sunday the Iowa City Press-Citizen published a version of my "More Guns, Less Sense?" post of October 12th. I had written this in response to an anti-Second Amendment guest opinion that the Press-Citizen had previously published.

Although it was a very condensed version of the below post, it contained a few facts that my original post didn't. These included:

"A 1997 study performed for the Justice Department found that there are as many as 1.5 million defensive uses of firearms every year. Two years earlier, a study by criminology professors at Florida State University, put that number at as many as 2.5 million defensive gun uses each year. By any measure, that's a lot of lives saved from rape, robbery or murder.

"According to a 1996 study at the University of Chicago, states that implemented laws wherein private citizens are permitted to carry firearms reduced their rate of murder by 8.5 percent, rape by 5 percent, aggravated assault by 7 percent and robbery by 3 percent. Contrast that with Australia, where in the six years following it's sweeping gun ban, armed robberies rose by 51 percent, unarmed robberies by 37 percent, assaults by 24 percent and kidnappings by 43 percent. Murders did fall by 3 percent, but manslaughter rose by 16 percent after the ban."

You can read the entire article as it appeared in the newspaper here. Or you can read the original extended blog post here.

Thank you to the Press-Citizen for presenting both sides of the argument.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Eliminate Iowa's Income Taxes

There seems to be a little more chatter about eliminating Iowa's state income tax these days. Ed Failor, Jr., President of Iowans for Tax Relief (ITR), for instance, had a guest column in the Cedar Rapids Gazette advocating such.

In the extended version of Failor's column on ITR's website, Failor cites a 2008 study by the Mt. Pleasant-based Public Interest Institute. The study found that South Dakota, which has no income taxes, outpaced neighboring Iowa in the growth of total personal income, per capita personal income, population, and non-farm employment from 1967-2007. Failor points out: "We all know people are not flocking to South Dakota for the warm climate. These jobs and former Iowans are leaving the Tall Corn State and moving just across our western border because there is no income tax in the Mount Rushmore State."

At least two Republican gubernatorial candidates have expressed support for eliminating Iowa's income tax. “That would be an ultimate goal, absolutely. Other states have done it and they have seen good growth," said state Senator and gubernatorial candidate Jerry Behn of Boone. I don't know whether or not Senator Behn actually worked to repeal the income tax while in the legislature.

Businessman, Corridor Recovery president and GOP candidate Christian Fong also supports getting rid of the state income tax. Fong says that his immigrant father put the issue into perspective for him. "He said, 'You don't need all that policy talk,'" Fong explained. "He said, 'High taxes are wrong because they inhibit personal freedom.' Done. For an immigrant from China who's bottom line is about the American Dream, taxation is really a freedom issue."

Whether or not the Republicans actually believe in any of the principles that they espouse while campaigning and whether they will follow through if elected remains to be seen. Either way, it's good to see that the idea of eliminating income taxes is at least part of the discourse.

Monday, October 12, 2009

More Guns, Less Sense?

Peter Hansen, a retired chemistry professor from Iowa City, recently had a guest opinion article in the I.C. Press-Citizen. It was titled, “Our love of guns is nutty.” The meat of the piece can be summed up with Mr. Hansen’s statement: “I fail to understand how any intelligent thinking person can believe that more guns, carried by more people, at more locations, will result in a safer and more peaceful society!”

I’m sure that Mr. Hansen is a nice man, but I’ve got some problems with the conclusions in his article. Since it contained several unanswered questions, I thought I’d take a crack at answering them for the good professor.

Hansen starts off the piece by invoking the senseless murder of a good man: Aplington-Parkersburg football coach Ed Thomas. A heart-wrenchingly tragic story always helps to stimulate emotions while clouding reason, a favorite tactic of anti-gun advocates.

Hansen then talks about the Virginia Tech shootings and the small but growing movement to allow concealed carry on college campuses. “Gun advocates maintain that had Virginia Tech's students and faculty been armed, far fewer than 32 of them would have been killed in the 2007 mass murder,” writes Hansen. “Of course, gun advocates ignore the far greater likelihood of more frequent suicides, accidents and murders that would result from arming our campuses."

As a self-styled “gun advocate” myself, I couldn’t swear that fewer people would have been killed if some V.T. faculty and students had been armed that day. That would still involve an armed “good guy” being at the exact right place at the exact wrong time. The point is that concealed carry on campus would lessen the likelihood of a shooting taking place at all.

According to “Multiple Victim Public Shootings” (2000) by professors John R. Lott, Jr. and William M. Landes, concealed carry laws (wherein private citizens are permitted to carry firearms) reduced a states likelihood of having a “multiple victim public shooting” (2 or more victims) by 60% and reduced deaths and injuries from MVPS’s by 78%. Their research also showed that the more restrictions that concealed carry states placed on where permit holders could carry their weapons (more “gun free zones,” like schools) the less of a reduction in MVPS’s the state experienced.

According to the study "Crime, Deterrence, and Right-to-Carry Concealed Handguns," (University of Chicago, 1996) by researchers John R. Lott, Jr. and David B. Mustard, states which implemented concealed carry laws reduced their rate of murder by 8.5%, rape by 5%, aggravated assault by 7% and robbery by 3%. There was no corresponding “greater likelihood of more frequent suicides, accidents and murders” as Hansen fears. We should expect similar results arming campuses, where only a few law-abiding faculty members and older students would qualify (or even want) to carry handguns.

Now allow me to answer some of his specific questions.. Hansen asks: “Why do Americans feel the need to own handguns to protect themselves from a potentially tyrannical government? Germans and Italians -- who have experienced tyranny -- don't feel this need.”

Most Germans and Italians (and many Americans) would probably grudgingly submit to tyrannical government (as they have in the past). Does Mr. Hansen consider that a virtue? Many (but not all) American gun owners retain the anti-authoritarian spirit of our founding fathers who rebelled against a tyrant far less maniacal than the ones that the Germans and Italians tolerated and even supported. Apparently some Europeans have this spirit of resistance too, like the Jewish resistance fighters in the Warsaw ghetto. Armed at first only with a few pistols, they held off the Nazis longer than the entire Polish Army had been able to.

“Why do Americans fear that law enforcement officers cannot adequately provide for public safety?” he asks. Our law enforcement officers do good work, but the simple fact of the matter is that they cannot be everywhere when needed. The courts have ruled that police have no legal responsibility to protect any individual, only society in general. Even in the increasingly Orwellian surveillance-state that the British are creating, the cops can’t be everywhere. Violent crime rates against their disarmed populace are now higher than America’s.

“Why do Americans fear that strict handgun laws will inevitably result in hunters being denied their hunting rifles and shotguns? Other nations with very strict gun laws allow hunters to hunt,” writes Hansen.

Because in just about every jurisdiction where it’s tried, gun control begets more gun control. If handgun ownership for such a basic human right as self-preservation is not considered sufficient cause to own guns, then how can the recreational use of firearms be considered justification for very long? Hunting, if allowed at all, quickly becomes the domain of the rich and well-connected. Once firearms ownership becomes a purely recreational pursuit, bureaucrats like Rebecca Peters (head of the U.N.’s gun ban arm) can more easily tell you to “get another hobby,” as she snidely advised English sport shooters.

Hansen also asks, “To those who interpret the Second Amendment as an unqualified right to gun ownership, I ask, why did James Madison write, ‘A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.’ Why didn't he simply write, ‘The right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed?’ Why the reference to ‘a well regulated militia?’ None of the five freedoms of the First Amendment are prefaced with a qualifying phrase.” This is a valid question.

In his book “The Bill of Rights Primer,” Yale Law School professor Akhil Reed Amar explains: “[I]n 1789, when used without any qualifying adjective, ‘the militia’ referred to all First-Class Citizens capable of bearing arms. The seeming tension between the dependent and the main clauses of the Second Amendment thus evaporates on closer inspection- the ‘militia’ is identical to ‘the people’ in the core (First-Class Citizen) sense described above, encompassing adult male citizens eligible to vote, serve on juries, and hold public office. Indeed, the version of the Second Amendment that initially passed in the House, only to be stylistically shortened in the Senate, explicitly defined the militia as ‘composed of the body of the People.’”

Lastly Mr. Hansen asks: “[W]hen the Bill of Rights was submitted to Congress, what was meant by 'arms'? Most guns possessed by hunters and farmers of that day were smooth bore muskets. Might those 18th-century congressmen have taken a different position had they observed the firepower of a Smith & Wesson Model 686 .357 Magnum revolver?”

I doubt our founders would have taken a different position. General Washington, for instance, was dismayed when many civilian militiamen (hunters and farmers) showed up with muskets incapable of mounting bayonets. In short, he didn’t want them bringing the “hunting rifles” that Mr. Hansen alludes might be permissible. He wanted these civilians bringing their own military-style “assault weapons” of the day. The founders would want their militia to have the best (read “most lethal”) small arms they could get. Since today’s robbers and redcoats have better guns, the founders would have no problem with the militia upgrading their arms as well.

I hope this all helps Mr. Hansen to understand how some fairly “intelligent thinking people” can support an individual right to keep and bear arms. If it was helpful to him, I hope the next time I need help understanding that darned chemistry stuff he’ll be there for me.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

ISU Professor Eric Cooper To Run For Iowa Governor

By Mike Malloy

(Sept. 30, 2009 – 8:30 p.m.) Eric Cooper, an Iowa State University associate professor in psychology and neuroscience, will run for governor next fall as a Libertarian. While Cooper is a veteran of local politics he is anything but a typical politician, as evidenced by his stark admission: “I’m not going to win.”

Victory for Cooper is redefined as finishing third, and receiving at least two percent of the vote, meaning the Libertarian Party would not have to petition or get signatures to be on the ballot in future elections. Cooper also hopes to raise the profile of Libertarians in the hopes that one of the two major parties would be willing to embrace Libertarian ideas.

Click here to read the full story.

(My thanks to Shrink Iowa Gov.)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Time To Wrap Iowa's Show Biz Giveaway

Just about everyone in Iowa knows that the Iowa Film Office (IFO) has been embroiled in scandal lately. The office issues tax credits to filmmakers who film in Iowa. By August, IFO had issued more than $31 million in such credits. Unfortunately, some filmmakers have used their money to buy themselves fancy cars, rather than hire Iowans, and the whole operation is shot through with accounting irregularities and poor record keeping.

The whole mess got so bad that Governor Culver actually had to put down his paddleball, amble over and fire somebody. Of course, Culver’s political rivals in the Republican Party are capitalizing on the scandal. They could run the IFO better, they contend. Other critics say that the IFO needs stricter oversight. But should IFO and other similar incentive programs exist at all?

There are nut-and-bolts reasons that indicate that they shouldn’t. A study by New Mexico State University found that for every dollar that N.M. spent on it’s film program, it got back 14 cents in tax revenue. (The state of N.M. claims it gets $1.50 back.) The Wisconsin Dept. of Commerce found that for every dollar that it invests in it’s film program, it gets back $1.70. For other economic development programs, the return on each dollar invested was said to be $161.

Victor Elias with the nonpartisan Child and Family Policy Center has studied Iowa’s film tax credit. He says that there is little evidence that the program does much of anything. “I couldn’t even figure out how many jobs this creates,” said Elias. “Whether they were full-time jobs or part-time jobs. And a film shoot only lasts for so long, so we’re not talking about permanent jobs.” $31 million is a lot of hard-earned taxpayer dollars to invest on hope alone.

Even if the incentive program was well-run and got a return on the investment, it (and special incentive programs for other industries) don’t really make sense. While it may now be customary for state and local governments to offer special goodies to get targeted businesses to relocate here, it comes at the expense of people and businesses who have already invested their time and money here.

According to Iowa’s Tax Education Foundation, Iowa has the highest corporate and personal income taxes among it’s neighboring states. Some have ranked Iowa as one of the worst states to start a business. Does it make sense to offer monetary incentives to get businesses to locate here, while simultaneously driving established businesses out?

It would make more sense to implement policies making the state attractive to new businesses and existing ones as well. Lowering state taxes and red tape would be conducive to all commerce in Iowa.

The bottom line is that there is no cash incentive that government can offer to new business that it didn’t first take away from the people and industry already here. The state needs to forget the bribes and just get out of the way.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Only 2 Days Left!

I am determined to make a difference in the fight against Alzheimer's disease. By participating in the 2009 Alzheimer's Association Memory Walk®, I'm committed to raising awareness and funds for Alzheimer research, care and support. I set a personal goal of raising $250 for the Alzheimer's Association. So far I'm well over half way there. With your help I can raise even more.

Currently more than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer's, and 78 million baby boomers are at risk – unless we find a way to change the course of the disease.

I want to do my part to fight this disease, but I need to ask for your support! Please make a donation to help the Alzheimer's Association advance research into prevention, treatments and a cure for Alzheimer's. For the millions already affected by the disease, the Association offers care, education, support and resources in communities nationwide.

On behalf of the millions of Americans who are living with this disease, thank you for supporting my efforts. We're on the MOVE to end Alzheimer’s!


The opinions expressed on this site are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of any group or organization.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Be Prepared. Be Armed.

[A note from Ben: I originally posted this last September. Since much of it is still relevant, I decided to post it again this September. I hope you'll indulge me.]

After a year replete with blizzards, tornadoes, and epic floods (2008), 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 three things to prepare for disaster: 1.Get a Kit, 2.Make a Plan, 3.Be Informed. The "Be Ready Iowa!" website has a pretty similar list you can check out too.

Since you can read the details at the National Preparedness Month website, I won’t rehash what each of these entails. But 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 all credibility from the modern argument that you can just call 9-1-1 in an emergency. 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 and small game 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, you get what you pay for. 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. Stick with "double-action," as opposed to "single-action" revolvers. Common calibers are: .38 Special, .357 Magnum (revolvers chambered for .357 Magnum can also shoot .38 Special Ammo, but not vice versa), .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 handguns and .30 carbine ammo for the M1 Carbine.

Level Three- Defending Freedom: If you live in open country or for the real doomsday (and less likely) 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 (by many names, from many manufacturers including one made in Iowa), 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 other 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, here or 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.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Constitution Day

Excerpted from this article by Michael Boldin at The Tenth Amendment Center:

The Constitution was signed on September 17, 1787, and every year that date passes by with hardly a sound. Sure, now that it’s considered a day of “federal observance” you’ll find government schools around the country including it in their lesson plans. But these discussions generally focus on “Constitution Trivia” instead of what’s really important. While it may be good to educate our young on how many years a Senator serves, or how Supreme Court justices are appointed, it’s not enough. Seriously lacking in the public discourse is the actual purpose of the Constitution – its underlying principles.

When the Constitution was being considered for ratification, there was strong opposition from famous American figures that included George Mason and Patrick Henry. One major reason for this was a fear of too much power. The founding generation spent their lives toiling under a tyranny - a government without limits. But, when the Constitution was written, it was done to codify in law that the powers of government would be limited to those which had been delegated to it. The entire system was created under the principle of popular sovereignty - that ‘We the People of the Several States’ created the government, and all powers not delegated to it, were retained.

But that’s not something you’re likely to hear from politicians in Washington DC, political pundits, schools, or just about anywhere else. It’s generally not in their interest, either. If politicians and their backers were promoting such crazy ideas as “originalism” and “limited government” they’d never be able to convince you that they have the power to tell you what kind of health care plan you’ll be getting, how big your toilet can be, what kind of plants you’re allowed to grow, where you’re allowed to exercise your “right” to free speech, whom you can buy and sell from, and even when you must send your children to die for them.

[To read the entire article, click here.]

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Great Debate, Part 3: What Now?

In the last two posts we’ve analyzed the ongoing Constitutional debate of: “Is the federal government to be a small government with a few enumerated powers or an expansive government with a few enumerated restrictions?” We’ve looked at how those who want an expansive federal government have used imaginative interpretations of the Constitution’s general welfare and commerce clauses as the basis of their expansion.

But what about those of us in the first camp, who believe the Constitution outlines a small, restrained federal government? Although things may look bleak (what with massive new government bailouts, “stimulus,” entitlements and corporate takeovers from both major political parties), there is reason to believe that the government expansion pendulum may be reaching its apogee.

Firstly, there is the cost of unfettered government. The federal government is currently $11.8 trillion in debt. Social Security and Medicare spending are set to rise as baby-boomers age and retire. Both of the big-box parties have shown no willingness to curb spending. To put it mildly, this is unsustainable. Something WILL change, one way or another, and it probably won’t be pretty when it does.

Secondly, as I noted in the previous post, many people are getting fed up. They are increasingly protesting the federal governments policies, be they seemingly never-ending wars, taxes or government controls. They are quite literally marching in the streets. And although it’s not usually the topic of polite political conversation, with some 70 to 80 million of them bearing arms, the American people are not a force to be trifled with.

Voters gave Republicans control of Congress in 1994, then the Democrats in 2006, showing a “throw the bums out” attitude both times. (Hopefully this continues and the current batch of bums will get their walking papers in 2010.)

Thirdly, the Supreme Court has lately begun to recognize at least some limits upon federal power (as also noted in the last post).

Lastly, the states themselves seem to be awakening against federal usurpation. With or without the aid of the Supreme Court, they may well be able to push the federal government back within its Constitutional bounds.

The “Real ID Act,” a Bush-era security measure mandating federal standards on state-issued IDs, never got off the ground because too many states simply refused to comply with it. Short of sending in troops, what were the feds to do?

More recently many states have introduced “state sovereignty resolutions” declaring their rights under the Constitution’s Tenth Amendment. They have passed in at least two states so far. These are, however, mostly symbolic declarations with no enforcement mechanisms.

Besides ad hoc noncompliance and symbolic gestures, the states have the old legal theories of nullification and interposition at their disposal. These ideas were most famously articulated in the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of 1798, state protests against the federal “Alien and Sedition Acts.” Later, northern states used nullification to disregard federal fugitive slave laws that they found odious.

The theory holds that the states, as the creators of the Constitution, are the ultimate judges of a law’s constitutionality, not the Supreme Court. Laws introduced in several states may soon test these theories or at least get the Supreme Court to reexamine it’s interpretation of the commerce clause.

Montana passed the Firearms Freedom Act, which states that firearms manufactured, sold and used only in Montana are exempt from federal firearms laws, since they don’t involve interstate commerce. Tennessee also passed similar legislation and it has been introduced in at least five other states. Gun rights groups are already preparing for the court battles.

Red and blue states alike seem to have federal intrusions they don’t like. California is poised to pass a resolution demanding the federal government stop meddling in the state’s medical marijuana laws. Arizona, Georgia and several other states have proposed plans to opt out of any national health care plan.

If you add up all these elements it’s easy to see that, despite the appearance otherwise, the era of big government may finally be set to ebb. But, no doubt, this great debate over the role of government in our lives will rage on indefinitely.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Great Debate, Part 2: The Commerce Clause

In the last post we began examining the long-running debate about the proper role of the federal government. I posited that the central question of the debate is this: “Is the federal government to be a small government with a few enumerated powers or an expansive government with a few enumerated restrictions?” The “Expansionists” rest their support for the second of these options primarily upon two clauses in the U.S. Constitution, the general welfare clause and the commerce clause.

We last analyzed the general welfare clause and found that it gives Congress power to levy taxes, but gives it no sweeping mandate to pass just any law that it deems necessary to promote the general good. Now we’ll analyze the Constitution’s commerce clause which reads: “[The Congress shall have power] To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes[.]”

This power to regulate commerce given to Congress is an important one. Under the Articles of Confederation, the precursor to the Constitution, states were free to place protectionist tariffs and regulations on goods coming in from other states. Imagine Iowa placing tariffs on cheese “imported” from Wisconsin or beef from Nebraska (and the tariffs those states would place upon Iowa pork and corn) and you can imagine the problems that would create for consumers and merchants alike.

The commerce clause put an end to these interstate protectionist measures and helped to turn America into a “free trade zone” and the economic juggernaut that it is today. It was put in place to streamline commerce, not to regulate every minute aspect of human existence.

In his 1995 testimony before Congress Roger Pilon, director of the Cato Institute's Center for Constitutional Studies, explained: “Not remotely did the Framers intend that the clause be converted from a shield against state abuse--its use in the first great commerce clause case, Gibbons v. Ogden (1824)--into a sword enabling Congress, through regulation, to try to bring about all manner of social and economic ends. Yet for nearly 60 years now, following the Supreme Court's reversal in 1937 (NLRB v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp.), that is just what has happened as Congress has claimed power to regulate anything that even ‘affects’ interstate commerce, which in principle is everything.” Let’s examine this Supreme Court “reversal” that Mr. Pilon refers to.

For most of the court’s history prior to 1937, commerce “among the several states” was interpreted as money or products moving from one state to another. In May of 1936 the court struck down one of President Roosevelt’s New Deal laws, “The Bituminous Coal Conservation Act,” which regulated coal mining. In Carter v. Carter Coal Company, the court prudently ruled that although the coal being mined may eventually end up in other states, the mining operation itself was a local activity not subject to federal regulation under the commerce clause.

Infuriated by the setback, President Roosevelt floated a plan to change the size of the Supreme Court from 9 to 15 justices. The new appointees picked by Roosevelt would presumably be acolytes of the New Deal, turning the court into a rubberstamping committee for New Deal laws.

Although Roosevelt eventually abandoned the plan, Chief Justice Charles Hughes and Justice Owen Roberts had clearly gotten the message. In 1937 both men switched sides from the Carter decision and voted for the expansive New Deal definition of interstate commerce in National Labor Relations Board v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation, reversing the court’s ruling from the previous year.

Years later Justice Roberts wrote: “Looking back it is difficult to see how the Court could have resisted the popular urge ... an insistence by the Court on holding Federal power to what seemed its appropriate orbit when the Constitution was adopted might have resulted in even more radical changes to our dual structure than those which have gradually accomplished through the extension of limited jurisdiction conferred on the federal government.”

They had deliberately misinterpreted the Constitution in order to save the composition of the court. Seventy-two years of federal government expansion have been build upon this lie. The commerce clause has since been used as justification to tell supposedly free Americans everything from how many gallons per flush their toilets will use to which toxin-laden light bulbs they must bring into their homes.

There have been a few Supreme Court decisions since 1995 that have showed that the court is beginning to recognize at least some limits upon the government definition of “interstate commerce.” In U.S. v. Lopez (1995), the court ruled that possessing a gun near a school zone was not a transaction of interstate commerce, striking down the "The Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990.” In 2000 the court invalidated parts of the “Violence Against Women Act of 1994,” reasoning (I guess) that smacking your live-in girlfriend was not interstate commerce unless she was standing on the other side of the state line at the time. Both are examples of cases best handled by local police, not the United States Congress.

It’s somewhat naïve to think that the Supreme Court, an appendage of the federal government, can be a completely impartial arbiter when divvying up power between the people, states and federal government. And, as we’ve seen, the Supreme Court can be coerced. If there is to be any hope of returning the federal government to a small government with a few enumerated powers, other remedies must be sought by the two other entities mentioned in the 10th Amendment, namely the states and the people.

We are seeing the beginnings of this very process. The people have been rising up and protesting the federal government’s unwanted wars, taxes and “entitlements.” The states, like long-abused spouses, are making the first few timid attempts at exerting themselves as equal partners with the federal government.

Next time we’ll look at one of these attempts, Montana’s Firearms Freedom Act, and the theories of state nullification and interposition.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Great Debate, Part 1: The General Welfare Clause

There’s been a debate raging in this country ever since the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1788. The debate is over how much or how little the federal government should be allowed to do. This long-simmering discussion appears to be bubbling once again to the forefront with passionate arguments for and against national healthcare, tea party protests, and state sovereignty resolutions.

As I see it, the question boils down to this: Is the federal government to be a small government with a few enumerated powers or an expansive government with a few enumerated restrictions? Both sides of the argument say they support the Constitution, but they interpret it in very different ways.

The first camp (in which the author includes himself) interprets the Constitution as giving the federal government only a handful of duties and specifically denying it the ability to do any other. We see the Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments added after ratification) as mere dummy-proofing: backup insurance in case the government should happen to “get too big for its britches” (to use my grandmother‘s phrase).

We like to point out the 10th Amendment, the “exclamation point on the Constitution” as 10th Amendment activist Michael Boldin calls it, which states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

The second camp, let‘s call them “Expansionists,” interpret the Constitution as giving the federal government carte blanche to conduct whatever measures it deems necessary at the time. They often see the Constitution as a “living document” which can bend with the times. To their credit, many in this camp zealously defend the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights (except the Second and Tenth Amendments), which they view as the only few restrictions upon government power.

The big government interpretation of the Constitution relies heavily on two clauses therein.

The first is the “general welfare clause” of the Constitution’s Article 1, Section 8. The Expansionists read the clause thusly, “The Congress shall have power to […] provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States[.]” But if we read it in it’s entirety, it’s a little different.

The full clause reads: “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States[.]” The clause is clearly about taxes. It mentions “duties, imposts and excises” both before and after it’s reference to the “general welfare.” Taxes are the "what" of the clause, to provide for the general welfare is merely the "why." The clause gives Congress power to levy various taxes, nothing more.

As Roger Pilon, founder and director of Cato Institute’s Center for Constitutional Studies, put it during testimony before Congress, “The general welfare clause […] was also intended […] to ensure that Congress, in the exercise of any of its enumerated powers, would act for the general rather than for any particular welfare.” [Emphasis added.]

If the general welfare clause meant that Congress was granted the power to enact any law it deemed to be for the good of the country, it would be wholly unnecessary for the Constitution to then list other powers granted to Congress. Yet this is exactly what the Constitution proceeds to do.

Next time we’ll look at one of these enumerated powers that Article 1, Section 8 goes on to list (the “commerce clause”), and see how it’s meaning has been stretched as well.

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