Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Braley Bytes: Crazy Train Edition

More Braley buffoonery. After (IA-01) Rep. "Borrowin' Bruce" Braley (D) got busted for using taxpayer funds to stage a campaign event (er, sorry, "deficit workshop") in the newly redistricted area he wants to represent, he wisely canceled the event since it was is clear violation of House ethics rules. According to those rules "[m]embers may not use official funds, including the use of staff resources, to conduct ‘town hall’ meetings or other official gatherings outside their districts."

Did Braley learn his lesson?  Apparently not. Braley then issued a press release that said he would  "jump aboard a Union Pacific Train on Friday in Fairfax headed to Marshalltown to promote and support enhancements to infrastructure in Iowa. Before the train leaves, Braley [would] hold a short press conference[.]" Neither Fairfax nor Marshalltown are in Braley's district.  Whoops!

The Iowa Republican points out: "House ethics rules explicitly prohibit Members of Congress from using official House resources, paid for by taxpayers, for purposes outside of their current district. This prohibition extends to new geographical areas, like Fairfax and Marshalltown, that are being added to Members’ districts as a result of redistricting. Members may campaign in these new areas, but not at the taxpayers’ expense."

Let's hope the next time Braley rides the rails it will be as a hobo after he's defeated in November.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Speaker List For NRA/IFC Rally

I recieved the following from NRA-ILA (Ben):

Save The Date!
The National Rifle Association (NRA), Iowa Firearms Coalition (IFC) and Brownells will host the 3rd Annual Second Amendment Rally on Saturday, August 25 from 9AM to 5PM at Brownells' Big Springs Shooting Complex. Firearm and hunting manufacturers and representatives will be in attendance, and the event will offer a variety of shooting and training opportunities. If you are an NRA or IFC member, your range fees will be waived. NRA members and media are invited and encouraged to attend this free event and meet many of Iowa's pro-Second Amendment legislators and activists. The speaker list for this event has now been confirmed, and will include speeches by many notable Second Amendment advocates, including:

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal

U.S. Congressman Steve King

U.S. House Candidate Ben Lange

U.S. House Candidate John Archer

State Senator Jerry Behn

State Senator Tim Kapucian

State Senator Shawn Hamerlinck

State Senator Joni Ernst

State Senate Candidate Matt Reisetter

State Senate Candidate Amy Sinclair

State Senate Candidate Dan Zumbach

State Senate Candidate Ken Rozenboom

State Representative Linda Upmeyer

State Representative Chris Hagenow

State Representative Matt Windschitl

Jan Mickelson

Pete Brownell, CEO of Brownells and NRA Board Member

Jeff Burkett, President of Iowa Firearms Coalition

Third Annual Second Amendment Rally
When: Saturday, August 25
9:00 AM to 5:00 PM
(Speeches to start at 11:00AM)
Where: Brownells' Big Springs Shooting Complex
4945 Highway 146
Searsboro, Iowa 50242
For directions, please click here.
RSVP Online: Please click here
Please see Iowa Firearms Coalition's Second Amendment Rally page by clicking here.
To view this event on Facebook, please click here.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

"Looking Backward" Book Review

Here are some thoughts on the book Looking Backward: 2162 – 2012, A View from a Future Libertarian Republic, by Iowa libertarian author Beth Cody. The review was written by Deborah D. Thornton who is a Research Analyst with Public Interest Institute in Mount Pleasant, Iowa.

Looking Backward: Potential, but Utopia?
By Deborah D. Thornton

The Libertarian movement, as evidenced by supporters of Congressman Ron Paul’s presidential bid, grew in strength during the 2012 Republican presidential primaries. According to the dictionary, a libertarian is one who "advocates for maximizing individual rights and minimizing the role of the state."(1)

The Preamble of the Libertarian party platform makes the following statement:

We seek a world of liberty; a world in which all individuals are sovereign over their own lives, and no one is forced to sacrifice his or her values for the benefit of others. We believe that respect for individual rights is the essential precondition for a free and prosperous world, that force and fraud must be banished from human relationships, and that only through freedom can peace and prosperity be realized. Consequently, we defend each person’s right to engage in any activity that is peaceful and honest, and welcome the diversity that freedom brings. The world we seek to build is one where individuals are free to follow their own dreams in their own ways, without interference from government or any authoritarian power.
Inherent in this statement and definition is that society and government as we know them today must be radically changed in order to achieve a better world. The idea is that all would be perfect if we made these changes. We could have a utopian world.

The idea of utopian communities has been a part of the American culture since our very founding. In many ways utopia is what the Puritans were looking for in their quest. Other well-known examples include New Harmony in Indiana, Brook Farm, the Shakers, the Oneida community, and even the hard-working Germans who settled our own Amana Colonies in Iowa. More recent utopian groups include those such as the "Jesus People Movement" of the 1970s. Utopian movements have been formed around socialist, communist, anarchist, and religious themes.(2)
So far, while some have succeeded for brief periods of time, all have ultimately failed.

In her newly published book, Looking Backward: 2162 – 2012, A View from a Future Libertarian Republic, small business owner and writer Beth Cody has crafted a fictional Libertarian world and explains the workings of this society. She uses the honored "accidental" time traveler approach to set the scene for exploring.

A professor from a campus much like those in Iowa accidentally falls into a 150-year coma, emerging in 2162. The United States of America as we know it has fallen apart under the weight of onerous debt and taxation, unsustainable social entitlement programs, overreaching government regulations, continuing wars, and general corruption.(3) The first states to leave were Texas and California. Then the rest crumbled. The most successful of the resulting countries is the "Free States of America," formed around Libertarian principles. The area of the Free States includes Iowa and the states westward to Idaho and Nevada.(4) Most interesting is the idea that various areas of the U.S. have broken off and formed countries heavily influenced by our history.

Much of the environment our professor awakens to is similar to 2012. Cars and homes haven’t really changed that much – we still haven’t figured out how to teleport ourselves like in Star Trek! But the government structure of the time is radically different.

The Constitution of the Free States is strictly Libertarian. Most importantly it includes prohibition of federal and state government taxation. All government is funded by voluntary donations. The federal government can not raise money through debt. Government can not print money or regulate its printing. There is no national military, only voluntary militia. Government can not fund or provide education. Government employees can not be paid with public money. And most importantly, the federal government cannot make new laws restricting the individual freedom of individuals, businesses, or states.(5)

Cody then goes on to have our professor’s sponsor show him around to see how the
really works, and to explain why and how these ideas and systems are better than that
of the old United States.
Looking Backward is an interesting and easy read. It clearly lays out how a Libertarian government might work.

Movement towards many of the ideas and goals discussed is needed in our country
today. Many of the new "Tea Party" Conservatives in Congress and the Iowa Legislature are working towards and promoting these approaches. Smaller government, lower taxes, increased personal freedom, and reduced government regulation are issues which many voters and taxpayers support.

Unfortunately almost 50 percent of the voters and elected officials stand firmly on the other side – believing that bigger government is more effective and more social services programs are needed, along with ever higher taxes. The wealthy must be taxed more because it is "unfair" for them to be successful. Parents are unable to decide how to best educate their children. Families must be forced to have health-care insurance or pay higher taxes. Consumers are unable to decide how much soda to drink.

Though utopian societies have never been successful – and one would not want the
United States as a country to disintegrate – when considering the current government and
economic situation one can not help but wish Cody and those supporting Libertarian ideals good luck.


1 "Libertarian," TheFreeDictionary.com, accessed on July 9, 2012.
2 "Utopian Communities," Answers.com, accessed on July 9, 2012.
3 Beth Cody, Looking Backward: 2162 – 2012, A View from a Future Libertarian Republic, p. 50.
4 Ibid, p. 47.
5 Ibid, p. 52.

Reprinted by permission from INSTITUTE BRIEF, a publication of Public Interest Institute.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Braley Bytes: Tail Between His Legs Edition

After saying that the ethics complaint against his taxpayer-funded event had "no merit" Bruce Braley's campaign has cancelled the offending event.

According to the Cedar Rapids Gazette:

"In the wake of an ethics complaint filed by a Republican activist, U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley has dropped plans for a deficit reduction workshop in Cedar Rapids, which is outside of his current congressional district.

"The Waterloo Democrat’s chief of staff said the workshop was being cancelled to avoid the appearance of an ethics violation.[...]

"Although a spokesman for Braley’s Republican challenger, Ben Lange of Independence, last week called on Braley to cancel the workshop, Davis dismissed the allegation then as having 'no merit.'

"The Lange campaign was pleased by the cancellation, calling it another case of Lange 'holding Washington politicians like Bruce Braley accountable,' Lange campaign adviser Cody Brown said.

"'We remain deeply disturbed by the misrepresentations that originated from his Washington office last Friday,' Brown said. 'Iowans are tired of Washington politicians who won’t tell the truth.

“'An apology is entirely appropriate and would go a long way towards resolving this issue for Iowa taxpayers,' Brown said."

Cancelling the event and a puppy-dog eyed apology may resolve the issue with some Iowans (not this one), but Braley could still be in Dutch with the House Ethics Committee.  It remains to be seen whether the committee will flog him once with a wet noodle or just give him the stink eye.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Braley Bytes: LMFAO Edition

Is U.S. Rep. "Borrowin' Bruce" Braley campaigning on the taxpayers' dime? A complaint filed with the U.S. House Ethics Committee against Braley certainly makes the case that he is.

The complaint was filed by former Dubuque County GOP chairman Matt Giese. Giese takes issue with a public "deficit workshop" that Braley plans on hosting in Cedar Rapids on August 20th. Cedar Rapids is NOT in Iowa's 1st District, which Braley represents. However, due to redistricting, Cedar Rapids will be in the newly redrawn 1st district this fall and will therefore be voting for in that district in the coming election.

The complaint states: "Because Braley is in the midst of a tough reelection campaign in the new First Congressional District, and based on the fact that Braley does not represent the people of Cedar Rapids, the only conceivable reason that Braley would have in using official taxpayer-funded resources to communicate with the residents of Cedar Rapids is to support his reelection campaign in violation of House ethics rules and federal law."

Giese also points out: "On September 16, 2011, the Committee on Ethics and Committee on House Administration issued 'Joint Guidance Regarding Redistricting' as a supplement to the Ethics Manual in order to 'offer guidance on what Members may and may not do with official resources where redistricting is concerned.' The Joint Guidance made clear that '[m]embers may not use official funds, including the use of staff resources, to conduct ‘town hall’ meetings or other official gatherings outside their districts.' [Emphasis added.]

"In the case of Braley, he used official congressional office resources to organize an official gathering in Cedar Rapids, which is outside of Braley’s current congressional district, and is therefore in violation of the House ethics rules issued jointly by the Committees on Ethics and House Administration.

In addition, Giese alleges that Braley abused Congressional franking privileges when promoting his event: "[T]he Ethics Manual clearly states that '[e]-mails sent by a congressional office must likewise comply with the Franking Regulations' and the Joint Guidance states that '[u]nder the franking statute, a Member 'may not send any mass mailing outside the congressional district from which the Member was elected.'

"Braley is clearly using his email account to target non-constituents in Cedar Rapids and is therefore in violation of the House Ethics Manual and franking regulations."

In the end I'm sure nothing much will come from this ethics complaint. Whenever you have crooks policing crooks its always a joke. If Braley murdered fourteen Girl Scouts with a machete he might get a stern finger wag from the House Ethics Committee, if that. If anyone is going to hold Borrowin' Bruce accountable for anything it will have to be the voters back home in November.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Paulista Wins Nomination For State Senate

Linn County Republicans nominated first-time candidate Ryan Flood to challenge incumbent Liz Mathis for the Senate District 34 seat. Flood was nominated in a special convention to replace the former candidate and flaky flameout Randi Shannon who quit the race.

26-year-old Flood is a financial advisor. Politically he has worked for Ron Paul's 2012 campaign and the "Liberty for All" PAC in Texas.

Flood has tried to distance himself from previous candidate Shannon, who listed him as campaign chair. “I actually didn’t really know about that until it was on the news,” Flood said. “I was down in Texas and she asked me to come up and help her out. I knew she was trying to get some paperwork done at the last second, so it doesn’t surprise me that she put me on there.”

Flood is calling for reductions in state government and taxes. “It’s time to say ‘Enough is enough’ and cut the spending and cut the red tape so job creators can do what they do best – create jobs,” Flood said.

Even though the GOP has a slight lead in voter registration in District 34, Liz Mathis will be difficult to defeat. Not only is she an incumbent but she's also a former local news anchor with high name recognition value.  With his late entry into the race, Ryan Flood has his work cut out for him.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

10 Questions with Ben Lange

33 year old Ben Lange is the 2012 Republican Nominee for U.S. Congress in Iowa's First District.  Ben grew up in my old hometown of Quasqueton (pop. 499), raised by working parents. He went off to college and earned a BA and a law degree. He worked as a congressional aide to U.S. Rep. John Kline (R) of Minnesota.

When it was time to start a family Ben returned home to Iowa and opened a private legal practice in Independence (a stone's throw from his folks in Quasqueton). Lange and his wife, Kelly, now have three young daughters.

Lange ran against incumbent Democrat Bruce Braley in the First District in 2010 and narrowly lost by less than 2% of the vote. In that election, Braley received less than 50% of the votes cast in the district and most of Braley's donations came from out-of-state donors (while the majority of Lange's donations came from within the district).

If the 2012 race is anywhere as close as the 2010 race, Lange and Braley will need every vote they can get. Lange has reached out to Libertarians, Tea Partiers, Constitutional Conservatives and the like. He has stated that he doesn't see much light between himself and libertarians like me.  I wanted to see how close we were and Mr. Lange graciously answered the following questions via email:

1. Probably the biggest commonality between libertarians and conservatives is in fiscal conservatism.   However, this philosophy wasn’t on display when last the GOP controlled Washington. As conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg put it, Bush, Tom DeLay, Denny Hastert, et al. “spent enough money to burn a wet mule. On Bush's watch, education spending more than doubled, the government enacted the biggest expansion in entitlements since the Great Society (Medicare Part D), and we created a vast new government agency (the Department of Homeland Security).” You’ve said that your top priority would be to “ restore our generational compact and solve the nation’s debt crisis.”   How much would you like to see cut from the federal budget and can you give any specific cuts that you’d like to see in discretionary spending?

America is on a path towards total financial collapse. Since 1993, politicians have quadrupled our national debt from $4 trillion to $16 trillion. If we are going to actually solve the problem, the first step is to modernize the budgetary process itself. Without fixing the process, it will not matter how many cuts are made in our discretionary spending because the real drivers of debt are found in mandatory spending programs. Key changes include enacting a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, an essential ingredient to any meaningful debt-reduction strategy, and putting an overall cap on federal spending as a percentage of our GDP. There are, of course, a number of examples of specific cuts on the discretionary side, including the millions spent on re-arranging furniture in the Washington D.C. office of the SEC, the millions spent on training Chinese prostitutes to drink more responsibly on the job, the duplication of international education programs, etc.

2. Of course discretionary spending is chump change compared to the “mandatory” spending for the federal entitlements of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, which almost everyone recognizes are going to bankrupt the country in their current form. You’ve said that you agree with “ [r]estructuring federal entitlement programs that are fiscally unsustainable for the benefit of future generations.”   What are some of your ideas for restructuring these programs?   Can it actually be done when even timid reforms are denounced as cruel and draconian?

We need to reform Social Security and Medicare for future generations of Americans and we need elected leaders with the guts to solve these problems. Unfortunately, Bruce Braley promised to secure these programs, but instead he has chosen partisanship over the well-being of Iowa’s seniors. Since arriving in Washington, Braley has not lifted a finger or offered a single proposal to ensure these programs are available for future generations of Americans. This is not leadership and this is why so many Iowans have lost faith in Washington politicians like Bruce Braley – he is part of the problem. The fact is both programs are going bankrupt and I believe we need to honor the commitment that we have made to our seniors and stand 100% behind the promises that we have made to them. But to fix these problems will require a bipartisan solution. That is why I believe politicians from both political parties need to come to the table and begin a serious conversation based around the following:

(1)    We should agree there is a problem and that Social Security and Medicare are fiscally unsustainable and need to be reformed and secured for current and future generations;

(2)    We should agree that seniors deserve more options and choices in their health care decisions;

(3)    We should agree that seniors’ deserve control over their own health care and government bureaucrats should not be intruding into seniors’ most intimate health care decisions.

3. The battle cry from the GOP has been to “Repeal and Replace” Obamacare.   For those of us who believe that the federal government has no Constitutional business at all healthcare, the “Replace” part of the phrase makes us nervous.   What do you believe should be done with Obamacare?

Repeal it – it is an unsustainable takeover of health care and an unprecedented expansion of government intrusion into people’s lives.  But repealing it cannot be all we do. As a small business owner, and as a husband and father of three girls, I know that we cannot return to the status quo.  Our families and businesses simply cannot afford the 18-20% increases in premium costs like the ones that we have faced in recent years.  The real question is this: Who should be in charge of your health care: the government, or you and your doctor? We must keep individuals in charge of their health care decisions.  To do that, we need more cost transparency, tort reform, and more competition at all levels of the system in order to offer plans and products that fit individual needs and actually bring costs down. The “replace” portion of my plan is to empower individuals with the freedom to make decisions that allow them to choose the health care that best fits their families’ needs.

4. On your website you state that the Second Amendment “protects the right of individuals to possess firearms, apart from service in a militia, and to use such firearms for self-defense and other traditionally lawful purposes.” Do you foresee any threats to this right to keep and bear arms? Are there any changes you’d like to see in federal gun laws?

The Supreme Court has ruled that the 2nd Amendment protects the right of individuals to use and possess firearms, but the Court did not define the precise scope of the right. In other words, while the Court established the principle of an “individual right to keep and bear arms,” it has not defined what types of arms are covered and what types of local restrictions may be placed on the individual right. As a result, the greatest threat to 2nd amendment rights is the narrowing of the underlying principle through legislative action and subsequent judicial rulings. Tragic events will always lead people to ask what could have been done to prevent them from happening. The sad truth, however, is that more laws and regulations will do nothing to protect law-abiding citizens from those who would willingly cast aside those same laws in order to inflict harm.
5. What do you think is the worst thing that your opponent, Bruce Braley, has done in his time in office?

Bruce Braley’s congressional career is one long trail of broken promises. He says one thing, but has done another. For example, Braley promised to reduce the national debt as his highest priority, instead he voted for a massive spending spree and the personal share of debt owed by Iowans has skyrocketed from $29,000 to $53,000. Braley promised to get tough on Wall Street, instead he bailed out Wall Street on the backs of Iowa’s working families. Braley and the Democrats promised Iowans that spending $825 billion in taxpayer dollars would reduce unemployment to 5.6% by the summer of 2012, instead unemployment remains stuck at 8.2%. Braley promised Iowans a “full and frank discussion” on health care, instead he crammed through a secretive 2,700-page bill in the dead of night and backed a government-takeover of health care even more radical than ObamaCare. He promised not to accept lobbyist contributions and said we needed to end the cozy relationship between legislators and lobbyists, instead once he arrived in Washington he accepted over $70,000 from lobbyists and over $1 million from other affiliated special interest groups. He criticized Gov. Mitt Romney for personally investing in Chinese companies, while at the same time he, himself, personally invests in invests in Chinese auto companies. As Americans we are free to invest however we choose, but don’t tell the people of Iowa one thing and practice another. Iowans are tired of Washington politicians like Bruce Braley who say one thing and do another. We cannot continue sending the same old politicians to Washington and hope for different results.

6. A major point of contention between “Ron Paul Republicans” and many other Republicans seems to be on foreign policy. On your website you state that “it is critical that our national objectives in [Iraq and Afghanistan] – and other challenges such as cyber security, Iran, and Syria – are made clear to the America public and our political leaders keep the American people informed and engaged as our troops, diplomats, and intelligence personnel protect our interests abroad.”   What criteria does an interest abroad have to meet for you to consider it worth American blood and treasure?

First and foremost, the use of force abroad needs to satisfy the requirements set forth in the U.S. Constitution. This means, for example, that military action needs to conform with the 'Declare War' clause of the Constitution. Wars should be reserved as a last resort, but may become necessary when, for example, vital national security interests are at stake and when American lives and property are attacked. When we do commit to using force, our military should have the tools and training it needs to get the job done as quickly and efficiently as possible.  Our military deserves clear objectives and a definable mission, and when that is accomplished, we should bring them home. America can be the shining city on the hill, without being the world’s police force and nation builder.

7. You’ve done a good job personalizing the concept of the national debt so people can see that it is a moral issue that we are essentially stealing from our children.  Isn’t it also a moral issue if we willingly allow strangers to grope our children at airports?  Do you think that the TSA is a necessary trade-off for safety or should it be altered or abolished?

As a general rule, I believe that any time a private company can provide a service at the same or better cost to the consumer and equal effectiveness than a government agency, we should look to end that agency.  With respect to TSA, even one of the original authors of the legislation that created the agency, Rep. John Mica (R-FL), recently described the TSA as “a complete fiasco.” There is some movement on the Hill to privatize the bulk of the agency’s current responsibilities, including by Mica, and I would support those efforts.

8. You have said that “the time has come for a new generation of leadership” that promotes “a legislative agenda rooted not in the coercive power of the state, but in the liberty of individuals to pursue virtue.” Is there any specific legislation that you’d like to see that would promote these ideals?

Repealing Obamacare would be a good start.

9. Besides any listed above, what federal laws (if any) would you like to see REPEALED?

In addition to the immediate and full repeal of Obamacare, another major piece of legislation I believe should be repealed is the No Child Left Behind Act. The federal government should be less involved in public education, not more involved. Parents and teachers should be in charge of their children’s education, not bureaucrats in Washington.

10. If elected you’ll be asked to swear an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic” and “bear true faith and allegiance to the same[.]”   What does that mean?

Taking an oath of office is one of the most solemn commitments a citizen can undertake. To me, this oath means that in all I do as a legislator, the Constitution will serve as my north star. I am duty-bound to follow it and protect it from enemies of our state.

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