Friday, November 18, 2016

The Parties' Platforms on Guns

Here is what the three noteworthy political parties say about Second Amendment issues in their platforms.

Libertarian Party

1.9 Self-Defense
"The only legitimate use of force is in defense of individual rights—life, liberty, and justly acquired property—against aggression. This right inheres in the individual, who may agree to be aided by any other individual or group. We affirm the individual right recognized by the Second Amendment to keep and bear arms, and oppose the prosecution of individuals for exercising their rights of self-defense. Private property owners should be free to establish their own conditions regarding the presence of personal defense weapons on their own property. We oppose all laws at any level of government restricting, registering, or monitoring the ownership, manufacture, or transfer of firearms or ammunition."

Republican Party of Iowa

"4. We strongly believe in the constitutionally protected natural right of individuals to keep and bear arms, as recognized and protected by the Second Amendment, and we support the repeal of existing laws that infringe upon those rights. We support the addition of “stand your ground” and “castle doctrine” provisions to Iowa law."

Democratic Party of Iowa

Gun Safety

 We support:
 248. President Obama's executive orders on gun control
 249. universal background checks
 250. requiring registration, licensing, education/testing & liability insurance
 251. banning assault weapons
 252. gun-free zones
 253. closing "gun show loopholes"
 254. right to prohibit firearms on one's property
 255. temporary confiscation of firearms from individuals under DANCOs
 256. guardians' accountability for minors' inappropriate gun access
 257. nationwide database of gun ownership
 258. hand gun regulation

 We oppose:
 259. "Stand your ground"
 260. open carry

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Election 2016: The Good, the Bad and the Trumpy

Well, the most contentious election of my lifetime is in the books. Let's take a look at how it affected  three political parties.

The Libertarian Party
Governor Gary Johnson

Governor Gary Johnson received 4,123,115 votes nationwide, or about 3% of the total. That was less than the 5% needed to qualify for public campaign funding assistance, but it was the highest third party presidential vote total since Ross Perot in 1996.

In Iowa, Johnson got 58,796 votes (3.8%). This obviously passed the 2% threshold to secure major party status from the state of Iowa. This will present many advantages to the party. They explain in a recent press release:

“'Voters ask us why they don’t hear about Libertarian candidates until late in an election,' said Campaigns and Elections Chair James Schneider. 'Our candidates have been campaigning for months, but they have not been allowed to file their candidacy papers until August – and often the media and polls do not acknowledge a candidate until papers are filed.' As a Political Party, Libertarians will now be able to file for office before primary elections [in June]."

Besides the presidential race, the party ran Chuck Aldrich for U.S. Senate and Bryan Jack Holder for U.S. Representative District 3. By my unofficial count the Libertarians had 6 candidates for Iowa Senate, 12 candidates for Iowa House and 3 candidates for county offices. There are also 6 Libertarians currently holding office in the state.

The party will continue to grow and build its organization throughout the state in preparation for its first primary election in 2018. If your willing to help, either as a candidate or volunteer, please contact or Oh, and don't forget to change your voter registration to Libertarian.

The Democrat Party
Going into the final stretch the presidential race appeared to be Hillary Clinton's to lose and lose it she did! Given the high unfavorability ratings of both candidates, I don't think this can be seen so much as an endorsement of Trump as merely a repudiation of Clinton.

Polling from the final days of the campaign showed that most voters thought Trump would be terrible, but Clinton would be slightly worse. Add in the fact that Hillary and the Democrats are quickly becoming personae non gratae in much of flyover country and add months of leaked emails showing that she's corrupt and dishonest and you've got a recipe for electoral defeat.

Obama won Iowa with 822,000 votes in 2012. If Hillary could have held onto those votes she would have beat Trump's 798,000 votes. Instead, Hillary ran off 172,000 Iowa Obama voters and ended the night with 650,000 votes.

Hillary apologists have blamed third parties, FBI director James Comey, the bigoted electorate and other things for Hillary's defeat. But think: Her name was booed during an opening prayer at her own party's convention. People were chanting "Lock her up!" at her own party's convention. If large  factions of her own party hate her, why on Earth should independents and cross-over voters line up to support her? If the Democrats had nominated a candidate that wasn't universally reviled, that candidate could have mopped the floor with Donald Trump (who is largely reviled). It's natural for the Democrats to spend some time crying in their beer. But, in the long run, unless they're willing to really examine the shit stains in their own laundry bag they'll probably keep losing big elections.

Before I let go of the Democrats, let me make one final point: The party really needs to get it's mind right on Second Amendment issues. One big reason voters in rural America lean Republican is because of the Democrats' support of gun control. This even helped the Dems lose control of the state senate in Iowa, where Iowa Firearms Coalition's PAC set up a special fund for the sole purpose of flipping that house.

Supporting the right to keep and bear arms needn't be a partisan issue. I recall during a Democrat primary debate, Jim Webb spoke in defense of the Second Amendment. Most of the other Democrats acted like he was from Pluto, except Bernie Sanders from Vermont who at least acknowledged that "the views on gun control in rural states are different than in urban states." (Then Hillary and the DNC torpedoed his campaign.)

Of course Hillary always says she supports the Second Amendment but also supports every imaginable restriction or ban upon gun ownership, so what the hell? Gun owners don't care that she now calls it "common sense gun safety" rather than "gun control." Trump might call it a "romantic interlude" when he's shoving someone down a couch; that doesn't change what it is.

The Republican Party
It was a pretty good election for the GOP despite (or perhaps because of) low voter turnout. Trump took the Whitehouse and the party retained its control of the U.S. House and Senate. While Hillary's numbers were down 172,000 in Iowa compared to Obama's, Trump got 68,000 more votes in Iowa than Romney did in 2012. (Romney: 730,000 Trump: 798,000)  The GOP retained the Iowa State House and took over the State Senate. (Republican Terry Branstad still holds the governor's mansion, which was not up for grabs this year.)

A lot of folks are freaking out over Trump's election. I listed some of my problems with him here, namely that he'll ride roughshod over the Constitution and continue to swell the national debt. Also he'll be an aggressive nativist on immigration and totally anti-free trade. If you want a list of his personal faults, flip on a TV.

But there are some rays of hope for libertarians. He's promising a lot of nice-sounding Republicany-type stuff: term limits on Congress, reducing the federal workforce, reducing federal regulation, canceling Obama's unconstitutional executive orders, and perhaps eliminating the federal Department of Education. Ironically, Trump may be less hawkish than his opponent from the supposedly dovish Democrat Party. Lastly, I have fewer visions of my gun being pried from my cold, dead hands under a Trump administration

I'm not too optimistic, but we'll see what happens. Trump is the president; I don't have to like it, but I do have to deal it. Whatever happens it promises to be interesting and entertaining. Buckle up and try to enjoy the ride, folks.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Constitutionalists/Fiscal Conservatives: Dump Trump; Vote Johnson!

If you believe in limited government and strict constitutionalism, as I do, voting for statist poster child Hillary Clinton is probably a nonstarter. But you've heard the Republican Party mouth some pretty words about those principles in the past, so you might feel that voting for their candidate Donald Trump is your only option. I hope you don't and I hope you'll consider voting for the Libertarian Party candidate, Governor Gary Johnson, instead. (No, it's not wasting your vote, I'll explain why in a minute.) First, why shouldn't you vote for Trump?

Our $19+ trillion nation debt is killing us with higher costs of living, slower wage growth, reduced fiscal flexibility, interest payments eating up more and more of the federal budget, and is a ticking time bomb. Trump (like Hillary) would only make it worse. When Clinton proposed $275 billion in new federal infrastructure spending, Trump said he would double those spending hikes (outbidding his own previous proposal). A recent analysis said that Trump's tax plan would jack the national debt up another $7.2 trillion over 10 years. Fiscal conservatism?

And how does Trump view the Constitution? Last December he vowed that, if elected, he would sign an executive order mandating the death penalty for cop killers. Killing a police officer is terrible, to be sure; but that doesn't give the executive branch authority to create brand new capital crimes out of whole cloth. Many of us decried Obama's use of his “pen and phone” to try to circumvent the Constitutional legislative process. Trump would make Obama look like a piker.

Even though most of Trump's ideas involve gorilla-stomping all over the Constitution, constitutionalists are told they MUST vote for Trump because he says he'll nominate originalist judges who will defend the Constitution. It seems counter-intuitive to me that Trump would nominate judges that would thwart his own agenda at every turn. It seems more likely he will merely lead the party (and the country) further from its Constitutional moorings.

Someone who knows plenty about the federal courts and the Constitution is Alan Gura. He is the litigator who led America's gun owners to victory in two landmark Second Amendment cases before the United States Supreme Court: DC v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago. Here is what Gura thinks about supporting Trump because of his potential Supreme Court nominees:

I have no illusions about what Hillary would do to the federal bench. Sad! But there is something deeply contradictory about the notion of electing a power-hungry strongman on the theory that he'll appoint judges that respect and enforce constitutional limits on government. Did Hugo Chavez appoint great judges? Did Putin, Mussolini, or Erdogan? Would it have mattered had they sort-of kinda suggested that they would?

As much as I care about the courts, worrying about jurisprudential doctrine is a luxury for people living under basically free and stable governments, for people who have access to food and toilet paper. And absolutely nothing in Trump's history suggests that he'd honor his proposed judge list or otherwise pick decent judges, while each of his proclamations indicates that the Supreme Court would be among the least of our concerns under his regime. True, the Trump gamble—that he'd be a figurehead who'd delegate authority to responsible people, or be resisted by the bureaucracy and media (or, laughably, by that stiffest-spined creature, the Republican Congress), while hewing to a judicial selection principle anathema to his personal brand—might pay off. Should Trump win, I'd at least delight in Hillary's loss, and fervently hope that he'd prove me wrong on every count. But I wouldn't bet my country on it.”

What about Governor Gary Johnson? He was a successful entrepreneur who became a two-term Republican governor of heavily Democrat New Mexico. During his time in office he vetoed over 750 bills, cut taxes 14 times (and never raised them), balanced the budget and left the state with a billion-dollar surplus. His VP candidate, Bill Weld, was also a two-term Republican governor in a blue state (Massachusetts). According to the Cato Institute: “Weld cut spending, balanced the budget, improved the state’s bond rating, and cut numerous taxes. Even with a Democratic legislature, Weld has a stunningly successful fiscal record.” Now as Libertarians, the Johnson/Weld Team would bring those same small government principles to DC. Johnson has said one of his first priorities would be submitting a balanced budget to Congress.

So fiscal conservatives and other advocates of limited government could certainly support Gary Johnson. But since it's nigh on impossible for a third-party candidate to win, isn't that wasting your vote? I don't think voting your conscience should ever be considered a “waste.” If you need more though, how about this: If we can help Governor Johnson get 2% of the vote here in Iowa then the Libertarian Party will become officially recognized as a “major party” by the state. That means Libertarian candidates would no longer have to waste time and resources gathering signatures in each race just to get on the ballot. If we can help Governor Johnson get 5% nationally, the party would get similar recognition from the federal government. This all would mean a more active and competitive third-party in future elections.

As we know from the private market, competition is a good thing. With a little competition from a stronger third-party maybe the two old broke down parties might have to run candidates for high office that people WANT to vote for, rather than candidates they HAVE TO vote for. But that will never happen as long as they can reliably harvest your vote no matter how God-awful their candidates are. Vote for a change: vote Gary Johnson for president.

Friday, July 29, 2016

My Pitch For Gary Johnson

I sent this in to my hometown newspaper. It's a bit of an introduction to Gary Johnson and Bill Weld for independent voters who aren't already devoted Trumpists or Clintonistas.

The two-party duopoly has conditioned us Americans to “hold our nose and vote.” However, the candidates that the two entrenched parties have now given us for president may require that we hold both our nose AND our stomach simultaneously, making it difficult to vote at all. They are essentially a crooked politician and a con man. “The Weekly Standard” writer Stephen Hayes calls it a choice between “a congenital liar who jeopardized national security in service of her own ambition” and “an unstable conspiracy theorist.” No wonder Americans of all political stripes are fed up.

Thankfully there is another choice: Libertarian Party candidate Governor Gary Johnson. His running mate is Governor Bill Weld. The Johnson/Weld team describe themselves as “fiscally conservative” and “socially tolerant.” “We want the government out of your pocketbook and out of your bedroom,” Weld summed up on CNN's Libertarian town hall. The “Wall Street Journal” calls the Johnson/Weld ticket an “honorable alternative” to the Trump/Clinton sleaze-fest.

Gary Johnson served two successful terms as governor of New Mexico, vetoing more bills than all other governors combined, lowering taxes and leaving his state with a balanced budget. Weld served two terms as governor of Massachusetts, being reelected by the largest margin in state history.

Can a third-party candidate win the presidency? The two establishment parties have certainly made it difficult, but as the old song goes, “the times they are a-changin'!” Even if Johnson doesn't win remember this: Every vote for Trump or Clinton is a pat on the back of the Republican or Democrat Party saying, “Keep up the good work you're doing in Washington.” Do they deserve that? Each vote for Gary Johnson is a warning shot fired across the bow of the political establishment, telling them to get their act together.

If you want another choice in this year's election, check out Governor Gary Johnson and Governor Bill Weld and their stance on the issues at

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Forbes Article: "Economic Forecast For A Libertarian President"

I'm amazed at the amount of mainstream press that Libertarian presidential candidates Governors Gary Johnson and William Weld are garnering. Here's a great recent example from Forbes which tries to predict the economic impact of a Gary Johnson administration: "Economic Forecast For A Libertarian President."

A few highlights:
  • You can read the whole article here."In the long run, the economy will be better off with market-oriented reforms. [...] But getting from here to there depends on how the public perceives the new president."
  • "Foreign military activity would certainly be reduced by a Libertarian president, making those defense cuts easier. But Congressional loyalty to military bases and defense contractors in their districts and states will prevent cuts from going too deep."
  • "A President Gary Johnson would veto quite often. He used this power 200 times in his first six months as governor of New Mexico, earning the nickname 'Governor Veto.'"
  • "Federal spending would fall under a Libertarian administration, but the president must spend appropriated money whether he wants to or not[.]"
You can read the whole article here.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Review: "The Soviet Story"

At the Libertarian Party of Iowa's state convention in March the keynote speaker, Dr. Yuri N. Maltsev, recommended watching the 2008 documentary "The Soviet Story." The film studies the fascinating relationship and similarities between the Soviet Union (USSR) and Nazi Germany. I just watched it and I too highly recommend the film. If you watch it, you will learn a lot about communism and our World War Two ally that they didn't teach you in school. It is available on Amazon video, YouTube and probably elsewhere.

The film first spends some time illustrating that communism and Nazism are not as different as many think. It shows how both are largely based on the writings of Marx & Engels. You'll see early Nazi symbology with the swastika literally between the hammer and sickle.

The film highlights the many mass extermination atrocities committed by the Soviet Union including The Holodomor, the deliberate starvation of 7 million Ukrainians in one year alone. The film attributes some 20 million total murders to Soviet communism over the course of its history. In his book "The Great Terror," researcher Robert Conquest puts that number at about 15 million. Whichever, it's a lot.

It's important that we remember and understand this bloody history, lest we repeat it. While the crimes of the Nazis have rightly been widely denounced and their ideology discredited as a result, the same can't be said for the communists. You can say, "Soviet communists made mistakes and had some excesses, but they were mostly right," among Western intelligentsia today, whereas saying the same thing about the Nazis would get you booed out of the room. While modern Germany condemns the Nazi regime, Vladimir Putin, current ruler of Russia, calls the collapse of the Soviet Union "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the [20th] century." Most American millennials wouldn't know to disagree with him.

The film also spends significant time on the wartime collaboration between the USSR and Nazi Germany. I was aware the two countries had a non-aggression pact with each other initially, but was unaware of the degree that the two regimes actively aided each other. There were plans on which country would get to consume which smaller countries, Poland was split between the two, the Soviets let the Nazis use their naval base to stage their invasion of Norway, the Soviet NKVD (secret police) taught the Nazi Gestapo torture techniques and how to set up concentration camps, and the Soviets provided food and materials to the Nazi war machine. When many Jews fled to the USSR to escape the Nazis, the NKVD rounded them up and turned them over to the Gestapo.

It's obvious that Stalin and Hitler were planning on carving up Europe for themselves before the two monsters began quarreling. This is not the image of our wonderful World War Two ally that we are often presented with in the West.

Please check out this film! You'll learn a lot. This is a Latvian film (Latvia being one of the three "Baltic states" that didn't appreciate their time under the boot of Soviet oppression) and there are several different versions of the film out there in different languages. Make sure you grab one in English.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

2016 Libertarian Party of Iowa State Convention

Professor Yuri N. Matlsev delivers the keynote address.

On Saturday March 20th the Libertarian Party of Iowa held its annual state convention. Normally held in the Des Moines area, this year's convention was held in Cedar Rapids at the Clarion Hotel & Convention Center. Although I've been a dues paying Libertarian for many years I had never attended a convention before. Since this convention was on my side of the state I had no excuse to miss this one.

At 9am Iowa Party Chair Keith Laube welcomed attendees to the convention. The next few hours were spent on rather mundane party business such as amending the party's Constitution and bylaws. Although I recognize its necessity,  I have to admit the parliamentary gobbledygook isn't really my cup of tea. Wake me up when we can grab the muskets! The interesting part was hearing the reports from members of the several active county affiliate parties in the state who told about the various activities they've been involved in.

Dr. Lee Heib discussed the work of the  Harrison County Libertarian Party which has been trying to get their county to contract out (privatize) some of its roadwork. Nate Newsome spoke on the activities of the Linn County Libertarian Party. He said they hold regular meetings, write letters to the editor of local papers and even spoke to a local high school civics class. (The Republicans and Democrats were invited to speak at the school session as well but didn't show up, proving, I guess, that they have "no class.")

There was also a presidential straw poll of the members which former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson won handily. (You can read more about the straw poll here.)

The group then accepted nominations for candidates for state office. The following candidates were approved: Don Brantz for State Senate #24, Brian Cook for Senate # 48, Bob Boyle for State House #20, Joe Gleason for House # 31, Jeff Meyers for House # 38, Dr. Eric Cooper for House #45, Joshua Miller for House #78, Garrett Byrd for House #80 and Rick Stewart for Linn County Sherriff.

After lunch, awards were handed out in recognition of the 2015 candidates, the county affiliates, committee members and volunteers and lifetime members. Then it was time for the convention's two guest speakers.

First up was Cristina Kinsella, the Advocacy Coordinator for the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, who spoke about the work of her group that she thought would be of particular interest to libertarians.  She explained  SF 2262 which would modify current law and allow police to retain seized property only after a person has been convicted of a felony for which forfeiture is expressly authorized as a penalty. The bill is still hanging on by its fingernails in the statehouse.

She said the "warrantless detention" bill was dead for this session. This would have required Iowa sheriffs to hold prisoners beyond their approved release date if federal agencies requested it. Twenty-six sheriffs had already said they would not hold prisoners without a warrant. She also said that a medical marijuana bill was still alive at the statehouse, although was much more restrictive than the original wording. She said the ACLU of Iowa continued to fight racial profiling and increased sentencing bills.

Kinsella then fielded questions from the interested group. A couple of members asked about the ACLU's apparent lack of concern for Second Amendment rights. Ms. Kinsella graciously explained that since there was some debate  among ACLU of Iowa members as to what the Second Amendment entailed and since the Second Amendment seemed well represented by other groups, ACLU of Iowa chose to focus its resources elsewhere.

Next up was the convention's keynote speaker, Dr. Yuri N. Maltsev. A professor of economics at Carthage College in Wisconsin, Maltsev worked as an economist on Mikhail Gorbachev's economic reform team before defecting to the United States in 1989. He is a Senior Fellow of the Ludwig von Mises Institute and serves as a member of the advisory boards of the Foundation for Economic Education, Heartland Institute and the Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics.

Maltsev said that the USA was much freer when he came here in 1989, noting the county's tumbling score on the Fraser Institute's annual rankings of freedom among other things. This distressed him, he joked, because he was getting "too old to defect again."

Professor Maltsev spent well over an hour laying bare the sins of Soviet Communism, then showed that it and Nazism and Socialism and modern liberalism are not opposing ideas, but basically one in the same.  When any of them get far enough along they will require massive coercive force and murder to function. That is why some 200,000,000 people were killed by "socialist" governments (of one stripe or another) during the 20th Century.

Maltsev said that "The Road to Serfdom" by Friedrich von Hayek was a book that changed his life. He also recommended the 2008 documentary film "The Soviet Story." I've already read von Hayek's book before, you can bet I'll be watching the film soon.

The convention closed at about 5:00 and I was glad I went.

Gary Johnson Wins Iowa Libertarian Straw Poll

Johnson at 2012 LP Convention
The Libertarian Party of Iowa held its annual state convention on Saturday, March 19, 2016 in Cedar Rapids. Along with other party business, it polled its members present on which Libertarian presidential candidate they supported. This information will provide guidance to the state party's delegates to the 2016 Libertarian Party National Presidential Nominating Convention in Orlando, Florida in May where the party will choose its presidential and VP candidates.

Members were asked to choose their first, second and third preference among the slate of candidates. For members first choice former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson received 67% of the vote. TV producer and party activist Austin Petersen received 23%. Computer programmer and businessman John McAfee received 7%.

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