Sunday, September 26, 2010

Thank You!

Thank you to everyone who donated towards my participation in the 2010 Alzheimer's Association Memory Walk.  Thanks to your generosity I was able to raise $170, and the three members of "Team Cashner" were able to raise $230 for the Alzheimer's Association.  In total, the East Central Iowa Chapter of the Association raised over $104,000.

Although it didn't go toward the team's Memory Walk total, after the walk was over one member of Team Cashner received a $500 cash donation.  She turned it on World Alzheimer's Day, September 21st, when a wealthy donor was conducting a matching challenge.  The donor matched the $500, turning it into a $1,000 donation. 

Take that, Alzheimer's Disease!

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

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Constitutional Convention For Iowa

Although the 2010 general elections appear to be shaping up to be as historic as any in recent memory, we here in Iowa will have an additional opportunity to vote on something that only comes along once every decade.  This year a question will appear on the ballot asking Iowa voters if a state constitutional convention, to propose amendments to the state constitution, should be held.  I hope Iowa voters vote yes.

In 1964 the Iowa Legislature amended the Iowa State Constitution, mandating that this question be put to the voters every ten years starting in 1970.  In the four times that the ballot initiative has come up, Iowa voters have rejected it, usually by wide margins.  This year may be different.

A recent poll by showed that 42% of Iowans surveyed support calling the convention and 36% oppose it.  This is without any major groups (until very recently) publicly supporting a convention.  This year had a palpable sense of public outrage at elected officials from both parties; if ever Iowa voters would call a convention to pass needed reform, this could be the year.

If a state constitutional convention were approved by voters here's basically how it would go:  The General Assembly would be responsible for determining how delegates would be elected.  The folks at (who have studied this more than I have) believe that "the General Assembly will likely simply utilize the existing state senate districts as delegate districts as they did for the 1857 constitutional convention in order to avoid any legal challenges."  The convention would then craft amendments to the state constitution and each one would have to be voted on by the people of Iowa before being implemented. addresses some of the most common concerns about the process here.

So, why is all this needed?   There are big, burning, philosophical political issues facing Iowa (and the nation) today and our timid state politicians seem unable or unwilling to address them.  At a time when other state governments were beginning to exert their own sovereignty, challenge federal usurpation and address other important issues, our state legislature was creating a mandate that employers provide special areas for women to express breast milk and creating a new licensing regime for dog breeders.  Were these really the most pressing issues facing the state?

Earlier in the year my state senator's email newsletter said that he was proudly supporting a bill to restrict "payday lenders" and thereby help the poor.  I wrote him an email detailing how the bill was actually injurious to the working poor and asked him to reconsider his support for the bill.  He wrote me back saying that we'd have to "wait and see how much traction" the issue got.  My, what a principled stance on an issue!  I point that out not because I hope a constitutional convention would address that particular issue, but to illustrate the wishy-washy unprincipled nature of our average politicians.

No, if the people of Iowa want principle, if they want substance, if they want "big ideas," then they will have to do it themselves.  They have to convene a constitutional convention and circumvent the usual legislative process.  Since the convention would be a one shot deal a person could hardly make a career out of being a delegate, so it will hopefully attract a different sort than the run-of-the-mill politician.

Of the "big ideas" that would be facing the convention delegates, gay marriage would be the elephant in the room.  This is the issue that made the Iowa Catholic Conference become the first major group (that I know of) to support calling a convention.  They hope to have an amendment defining marriage as being between one man and one woman to be put to a vote by the people of Iowa.  Regardless of your stance on that issue, there are many other important issues that could also be addressed.

In a guest column in at former Sioux City councilman Brent Hoffman lists five worthy potential amendments:
1. Open government (aka “Sunshine”). Current laws only mandate transparency (e.g. open meetings) at the local level. When a past bill was offered to “unexempt” the Governor and Legislature, State Representative Bill Schickel noted “it was so troubling to legislative leaders that they killed the entire bill.”

2. Recall elected officials. If your State Senator or City Councilman is corrupt or incompetent, you should be able to remove them via a “recall vote.” But the Iowa Constitution doesn’t contain that provision. According to Joshua Spivak at least “26 states authorize the recall in some form.”

3. The ballot initiative. First introduced in South Dakota in 1898, the “initiatve” or “ballot measure” empowers citizens to gather petitions and vote on an issue. Twenty-three states have since joined South Dakota in this “more direct form of democracy,” but Iowa isn’t one of them.

4. Term limits. There are at least “15 states that currently have term limits for legislators” (NCSL). Two of these 15 states are our neighbors: Nebraska and South Dakota. Whether you love or hate term limits, it’s a safe bet this amendment won’t see the light of day without a convention.

5. Budget and tax controls. The “People’s Right to Vote” amendment has never made it out of the State Legislature. Iowans for Tax Relief says this amendment would “require voter approval for most tax and fee increases” (beyond 1 percent of revenues from the previous year). Call it a “veto power” on the legislature’s spending habits.
Hoffman's theme is enacting provisions that the legislature is unlikely to impose on itself.  Additionally Iowa is one of only six states that has no constitutional provision protecting the individual right to keep and bear arms.  That could surely be addressed at a convention.  My own personal wish list, for what it's worth, would also include some type of state sovereignty amendment and switching to biennial legislative sessions (like Texas).

Granted, devotees of big government will be elected as delegates as well and will push for amendments expanding government power and probably some really bad ideas.  This is where a little faith in our fellow citizens comes in.  Remember, the proposed amendments must then be voted on by Iowa voters before they are accepted.  As Tom Chapman, executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference, said recently, "Obviously, there are a lot of other things that could take place at a convention, and we’re just going to rely on the people of Iowa to vote yes on the good things and no on the bad things." 

Faith in the wisdom of the common man, now that's something you won't hear coming from the entrenched power brokers in either major party.  That's because, as Brent Hoffman points out, "if anyone should be fearful of a state Constitutional Convention, it is surely not the voters. It is the politicians."

Let's vote "YES" on the state Constitutional Convention so that we can then vote on the issues that the heels in Des Moines won't address.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Braley Bytes

Here is another installment of my new series of articles dealing with Iowa's so-called "representative" of the First District in the U.S. House, Bruce Braley.  I've changed the title of the feature from "Braley Bites" to the less provocative sounding "Braley Bytes" because I'm still trying to get Braley to hand me a juicy federal grant so I can finally quit working for my money like a sucker.

Braley Continues Assault On Constitution & Our Children

James Madison, the "Father of the Constitution" wrote: "The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government, are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce[.] The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State." [Emphasis added.]

When Bruce Braley and his cohorts in Congress read words like those from the framers of the Constitution their brains must translate it into those squawking trombone sounds of the adult characters in the "Peanuts" cartoons.  From Braley's vote for Obamacare to his signature piece of legislation, the "Debt for Clunkers" program, just about everything that Braley has done since he was elected has been an affront to constitutionally defined federalism as spelled out in the enumerated powers and the 10th Amendment.  With his yes vote on the painstakingly named "XXXXXX Act of XXXXXX" (it was rushed through so hastily, that that is it's official name!) Braley keeps his Constitution-trashing streak going.

Not satisfied with the record amount of deficit spending that they had already inflicted on future generations of Americans (i.e. our children, who must pay the bill, plus interest) congress was rushed back to DC by the Democrat leaders for a special session in order to spend even more money.  The "no-name bill" they voted on (H.R. 1586, by number) was a $26.1 billion "bailout." 

$10 billion was to go to pay the salaries of teachers, long known as stalwart supporters of the Democrat Party.  (Since Braley voted to give them the money, I guess that the $7,500 that the American Federation of Teachers gave Braley this election cycle was a good investment.)  Another $16.1 billion went to the extension of Federal Medicaid matching rates.  Education and healthcare are duties that the Tenth Amendment reserves to the states and to the people and are definitely not any of those "few and defined" "external objects" that Madison referred to.  But I guess Braley knows what the Constitution means better than one of the guys who wrote it.

Lange Moving Into Striking Distance?

Although unseating an entrenched incumbent like Braley is a difficult task, in fighter-pilot terminology, Braley better "watch his six."  A new poll shows that upstart Republican challenger Ben Lange may be closing in on the big-spending politico.  The poll, commissioned by the American Future Fund, shows Lange trailing "Clunkers" Braley by only 4.4 points among those who identified themselves as "certain to vote."  While the poll did show Lange still trailing by 11 points among the entire sample in the Democrat-leaning district, it also showed that only 39% of those in the district thought Braley "deserved re-election." Apparently not listed as an option in the survey was Libertarian candidate Rob Petsche, so it's unsure how he'll affect the election.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Sept. 11 Rally: Marion Iowa

The gang over at Republic Now Iowa will be hosting an "anti-war, pro-libertarian" rally at noon on September 11 in  Marion Square park in the center of Marion Iowa (right across from the Democratic Headquarters).

According to Group Coordinator Brandon E.: "We are hosting our first Republic Now rally with invitations going to multiple personalities throughout the state of Iowa. Don't miss out at what is going to happen at Marion Square Park on September the Eleventh.

"On September the Eleventh in Marion Square Park, Marion, Republic Now will be staging a political rally hot on the heels of an expansive flyering campaign in both Marion and Cedar Rapids.

"In a time of so much hatred and an increasing police state with cameras on street corners and intolerance everywhere you happen to be, a statement must be made that will show peace to a community. And this is how America will return, one community at a time.

"We will show up and gather, share our opinions, welcome each other as brothers and sisters in liberty.

"There will be a public reading of the Declaration of Independence and excerpts from United States Constitution. We will not resist or instigate any form of disorderly conduct or violence as we are a peaceful organization.

"We will show the city that our rights are disappearing and that only a love and respect for people of all ethnicity, beliefs, skin color, spiritual, and political persuasion will bring America back.

"We will also be addressing where our loss of Liberties may be taking our nation in the future[.]"

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Be Prepared. Be Armed.

[A note from Ben: I've posted this same post every September since I've started this blog. Since much of it is still relevant, I decided to post it again this September. I hope you'll indulge me yet again.]

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

The U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security’s (DHS) “Ready Campaign” recommends 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. (This is what I carry.)  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. (If you're on a budget, Hi-Point Firearms makes a very affordable pistol-caliber carbine.) 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 the newly revised and updated “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 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.

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