Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Hell and High Water

My stomping grounds along Iowa's Maquoketa River got more national attention than we would have liked this past weekend when massive flooding caused a dam failure.  (I'm sure most of you heard, unless you've been in a cave in Tora Bora.)

Upstream from the dam, record flood levels deluged the town of Manchester early Saturday afternoon.  This high water quickly overwhelmed the Delhi Dam south of Manchester and washed away the earthen causeway on the side of the concrete dam.  Hundreds of homes in the unincorporated community of Lake Delhi were damaged or destroyed.

The floodwaters from the ruptured dam rushed downstream toward the towns of Hopkinton and Monticello.  In my town of Monticello the call went out for help filling sandbags.  As soon as I was able to hand the kids off to my wife (who had been in Dubuque), I went down to the city shop and spent a couple hours helping fill sandbags.

The flood put a damper (pardon the pun) on the Great Jones County Fair, which was going on and caused millions of dollars in damages in Monticello. Despite all this, it could have been worse. Thank God no one was killed.

Although this is an extremely localized disaster, it has caused a lot of hardship for several small Iowa communities. I haven't seen any flood-specific relief funds yet, but if anyone desires to help you can can make an online donation to the Grant Wood Area Chapter of the Red Cross (serving the affected counties of Jones and Delaware) here.

Of course I can't go a whole post without pontificating about politics and good governance.  While I was down there filling sandbags I witnessed the various layers of government in action.  Lest I be accused of being an anarchist, I do see the use of some government and various levels for certain jobs.

I could certainly understand what many of the elected officials were trying to do.  The town mayor and a few city officials were coordinating the local efforts, including the sandbagging.  The county sheriff was there coordinating his deputies who were directing traffic from the increasing number of news vans and gawkers and performing countless other important tasks.

Even Governor Culver was on hand to check out the situation.  He ended up calling out the National Guard (although to where and to do what I'm not sure, my boy was disappointed that he never did see any "army trucks").  Although there probably wasn't much that the governor could do right away, in his role as chief executive of the state it was indeed appropriate for him to see if the state resources at his disposal could lend a hand.

The elected officials who really didn't need to be there were the state and federal legislators who showed up to "see first-hand" what was going on and "speed" recovery aid to the area.  I didn't even realize they were there until I was walking out to my car to leave, because they sure weren't out where we were filling sandbags. You could almost see them salivating at all the reporters and news vans around.

They were there for what they're always doing: getting their pictures taken and promising to dole out other peoples money, i.e. campaigning.  The legislature's job is to make laws, not personally deliver the goods.  They should appropriate emergency funds that the executive branch can quickly dispatch to disasters when needed.  Term limits would help ensure legislators from both parties think about what there job actually is, rather than how to keep it. 

As for the promise of federal help: as a constitutional purist who lives safe and dry up on a hill, I won't claim to speak for anyone else in my county, but I don't see that any of this is the federal government's damned business.  As I've written before, the argument that the Constitution's "general welfare clause" authorizes a power not specifically enumerated in the Constitution (like disaster relief) doesn't hold water. 

Besides, if the federal government didn't syphon so much money out of the states it wouldn't have to "benevolently" shovel borrowed money back into them during emergencies.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Welcome Representative Braley!

In the day and a half after I posted "Braley Bites" I had five views of my blog from Washington DC, including two from (U.S.  House of Representatives) domain names.  A similar phenomenon occurred when I posted "Bruce Braley Buffoonery" and "An Open Letter To Rep Bruce Braley."  I'm beginning to think I've got fans in high places.

Let me follow a hunch and extend a hearty welcome to Representative Braley or (more likely) a couple of his staffers.  I'm glad to have you here!  Anyone with an open mind is welcome.

Let me start off by saying I have nothing against Braley personally.  He may very well be a nice person in private.  I don't know; I've never met him.  It's his public policies that I don't like.  Unfortunately, the progressive policies that he promotes affect me quite intimately: taking the bread from my mouth through taxation, subverting the Constitution I swore to defend, and wrapping the noose of interminable debt around the necks of my children.  It's hard for me not to take umbrage at all that I'm afraid.

But I hope that you find the blog enjoyable and enlightening.  So long as you're here though I would ask that you please patronize my advertisers, to generate revenue for my site.  You see, unlike you, I don't have swarms of armed thugs to take other people's money for me and I can't borrow money from the Chinese in my children's name.

Or maybe I could forgo all that ad revenue stuff and you guys could just hook me up with a big, fat federal grant.  Watch how fast I change my tune from "Braley Bites" to "Braley's Brilliant" then!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Braley Bites

I'd like to take this opportunity to introduce what will be a recurring feature on this blog titled "Braley Bites."  Each installment will deal with Bruce Braley, Iowa's so-called "representative" of the First District in the U.S. House.  The "bites" comes from each one being a small, "bite-sized" news snippet, but since I'm no big fan of Braley, you can take it a couple of different ways.  Here's the first installment:

Lange Outraises Braley In Second Quarter

According to financial disclosures released this month, challenger Ben Lange raised more money in the second quarter than the incumbent Braley.  Lange, a small-town lawyer from Independence, raised $108,587 while Braley only raised $106,678.

While those numbers are similar, where the money came from are polar opposites.  85% of Lange's donations came from constituents here inside Iowa's 1st District.  Compare that to Braley, who had 88% of his contributions come from out-of-state. Incredibly only six actual constituents donated to Braley this past quarter, according to the disclosures.  Braley relied heavily on political special interests for donations, whereas 96% of Lange's support came from individual contributors.

While Iowans are already voting for Lange over Braley with their wallets, that doesn't mean Lange can breathe easy.  Braley has $632,385 in his war chest, while Lange only has $110,296.  Braley helps wield the resources of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and will use them to fund his own campaign.  And since Braley is one of the most consistently liberal votes in Congress, unions and other liberal special interests from across the country will be dumping truckloads of money into the race to ensure Braley's victory.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Constitution 101

What do small-town Iowans do on a hot July night?  If you said skinny dipping or cow tipping you'd be wrong (and you need to go back to your production company in L.A.).  For about 80 people in Jones County last Thursday the answer was "attend a lecture on the U.S. Constitution."

Hosted by the Jones County 9.12 Project, Lee J. Strang, Professor of Law gave a presentation he called "Constitution 101."  The event was free and open to the public.  Professor Strang currently teaches at The University of Toledo (Ohio) College of Law but is originally from Northeast Iowa and is a graduate of the University of Iowa.

The presentation consisted of one hour of lecture followed by one hour of questions and answers.  The lecture was a brief history of the Constitution.  Strang started with the Constitution's lineage to the ancient Greek, Roman, and Judeo-Christian traditions as well as English institutions and common law.  He then moved on to the more immediate precursors to the Constitution, such as the Declaration of Independence, the Second Continental Congress, and the Articles of Confederation.

Professor Strang ran through some of the unique aspects of the U.S. Constitution.  One unique aspect that we might not think about, for instance, is its "writtenness."  Our Constitution, unlike the English one, is actually written down, making it harder to change on a whim.  It defines a limited government of enumerated powers.  It has separation of powers within the federal government, checks and balances, and it divides powers with federalism.

The lecture was informative and Strang was an excellent speaker.  The audience was engaged and the question and answer period ran well over the one hour allotted.  (It was still going when I left, but I wanted to get home to tuck my boys in.)  Event organizers were pleased with the turnout.

Kudos to Professor Strang for donating his time and talents to help educate the general public about the Constitution.  Thanks also to Jenn and Freddie Jones and the other members of the Jones County 9.12 Project who worked hard to put this event together.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Obama-Hitler-Lenin Billboard, We Hardly Knew Ye

Between Two Rivers reports that a controversial "Tea Party" billboard in Mason City that was unveiled last week has now been covered up. 

Although the news articles I've read about this all allude to "complaints" about the sign, the only people I've seen quoted complaining about it are fellow Tea Partiers saying it's counterproductive.  Everyone objected to linking Obama with Hitler.  Does that mean the comparison to Lenin is apt?

The billboard was originally sponsored by the North Iowa Tea Party.  Lest anyone forget what it looks like, I think I'll put it at the bottom of my blog for a while.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Iowa Firearms Group To Change Name

An Iowa pro-Second Amendment group that this year helped to improve Iowa's concealed weapons law is changing its name to reflect its expanding mission.  From the Iowa Carry website:

"The name Iowa Carry will soon be history (the end has already technically taken place). Born in 2005 of a desire by one Iowan to stop the ability of his sheriff to unfairly deny him his Constitutional and God-given right of self-protection, then joined by another, and shortly thereafter by a handful of others, all with that same goal, Iowa Carry’s membership now numbers in the hundreds, with thousands of others looking our way for direction and leadership in seeking to protect and restore their firearm rights. Having recently achieved many of our concealed carry goals with the passage of SF 2379 (we do remind everyone that there is still work to be done, even in this area), we arrived at the conclusion that renaming ourselves the Iowa Firearms Coalition would more accurately reflect the direction we intend to take with this organization.

"While concealed carry issues will remain an integral part of our operation, we will be expanding into any and all other areas concerning firearms—the ongoing rejuvenation of our Second Amendment rights in all aspects; hunting privileges; sport shooting; self-defense training; socialization with like-minded individuals; publication, promotion, and advocacy in all of the media; individualized interests, be they handgun, rifle, shotgun; and perhaps most importantly, integrating our message and activities with other like-minded organizations (hence, the coalition moniker). While Iowa Carry (now the Iowa Firearms Coalition) carried the load for several years, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that it was the assistance of the National Rifle Association this past year that put us over the top! We look forward to working closely with Chris Rager and other NRA representatives in the years ahead!" [Emphasis in original.]

Regardless of the name, I wish the Iowa Firearms Coalition well!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Freedom Events Next Week

Constitution 101

Lee Strang, Professor of Law, University of Toledo in Ohio will give an informal class on the U.S. Constitution.  Where did the Constitution come from? What is its purpose?  Why is it important? How should we interpret the Constitution?  A question and answer session will follow the presentation.  The event is free and open to the public.

When: Thursday, July 15, 2010 from 7-9p.m.
Where: Monticello City Council Chambers Community Center, 220 East First Street, Monticello IA
Hosted by: Jones County 9.12 Project  Contact Jenn Jones for more information.

Anti-Authoritarian Night or Night of the Disestablishmentarianists

According to event organizers: "We Are Change and the Patriots are invading Pub Mitchell on Friday night, the sixteenth of July. Be there and tear the house DOWN! We will be spreading truth, waking people up to the two-party dictatorship, the coming new World Order, and spreading some general, all-around Libertarian view points.  Many different groups are represented with different viewpoints. Have fun and don't put anybody down.  But I will say that this will lean more toward End The Fed / Peace Activism / States' Rights as the core."

When: Friday, July 16, 2010 at 8:00pm until close
Where: Pub Mitchell, 1100 1st Street Southwest, Cedar Rapids IA

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Happy Birthday America and (Hopefully) Many More!

I spent this weekend with all the usual activities that we’ve come to associate with Independence Day: parades, getting sunburned, and fireworks. I did this all in Independence, where else? As we watched fireworks light up the night sky behind the city’s historic Wapsipinicon Mill [see photo by my wife] my mind drifted back to the many Independence Day fireworks displays I’d seen in my youth.

The Mill, dark and foreboding in the foreground, had silently observed about 140 such July 4th celebrations. I wondered how many more would it see? Would my children still celebrate the founding of a nation called “The United States of America” when they’re my age? This was the first Independence Day that I wondered if they would.

The nation whose birthday we celebrated is now $13.2 trillion in debt. To put that number in perspective, if you spent $1 per second it would take you 31,710 years to spend just one trillion dollars. We’re on track to add another $1.5 trillion on to that government debt this year alone, with similar sized deficits for years to come. Total spending by the entire federal government was only about $2 trillion in 1990 (in inflation-adjusted dollars), so our yearly budget deficit is now almost equal to the entire budget just 20 years ago. President Obama’s budget would double the national debt by 2020.

Add to that debt another $109 trillion in unfunded liabilities (promised benefits) for Social Security and Medicare. Add to that debt every “unforeseen” emergency expenditure, war, new entitlement and pork barrel project to come. You don’t need a crystal ball to see that that can’t go on forever.

Budget numbers aren’t the only alarming trends. Our society itself seems to be in a state of flux. The federal government has broken free of its Constitutional shackles and now tries to regulate every aspect of human existence. Some states are showing a rebelliousness against federal intrusion that we haven’t seen since before the Civil War. The people, too, seem to be awakening to the federal government’s usurpation. While I think that’s a good thing, if the feds respond with the jackboot, things could get ugly.

So will my boys one day become men in a free and prosperous land, as I did, or in a land torn by war and economic destitution? I don’t know. The best I could do was hold them close on the cool night grass and watch what my 4-year-old called the pretty “sizzles in the sky.”

I pray that these celebrations of our nation’s founding are the only “rockets’ red glare” that they will ever know.  I recall the words of Thomas Paine in The Crisis, December 23, 1776: "If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace."

Monday, July 5, 2010

Iowa Freedom Report: "Des Moines Police Advise Putting Kids in Debt, Not Jail"

I'm just now getting around to writing about the fact that I'll occasionally contributing articles to the relatively new website Iowa Freedom Report.  Steve Hoodjer, the site's founder/editor describes the site as "Iowa’s new home page for news and commentary about limited government and alternative politics. We work to advance issues and oppose blind partisanship."

So far I've had two posts on IFR.  The last one was "Des Moines Police Advise Putting Kids in Debt, Not Jail." 

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