Iowa Youth Presidential Straw Poll To Be Held On January 26

The Iowa Secretary of State’s office has announced that it is organizing a statewide Youth Straw Poll, scheduled to take place in schools across Iowa, on Tuesday, January 26. The goal of the Straw Poll is to engage students in a hands-on learning experience that will inspire them to participate in civics in their community.

Approximately 250 schools across Iowa have already registered to take part in the Straw Poll. Statewide results will be announced by the Secretary of State’s Office on January 26.  Secretary of State Paul Pate says he wants every public school, parochial school and homeschooling student in the state to participate.

“I believe this Straw Poll will provide an interesting snapshot of where the Iowa Caucus races stand, just six days before Iowans vote,” Secretary Pate said. “The Straw Poll will not necessarily be indicative of how the Iowa Caucus races will turn out, but it will provide some interesting insight into which candidates have appealed to Iowa’s youth. Also, most high school seniors are eligible to participate in the Iowa Caucus on February 1.”

Students are encouraged to pick one candidate in both the Republican and Democratic parties on the Straw Poll ballot. Teachers can still register their students by going to this website: https://sos.iowa.gov/youth/studentmockelection/registration.aspx.

“Students will better understand the principles of our democracy when they actively participate,” said Iowa Department of Education Director Ryan Wise. “The Iowa Youth Straw Poll is an opportunity to introduce students to the democratic process and to help them build the knowledge and skills to be active, engaged citizens.”

A full list of the schools that are participating in the Iowa Youth Presidential Straw Poll will be available online at www.caucus101.com/resources.

Photo Credit:”Iowa City Caucus” by CitizensharpOwn work. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

Opinion: Trump’s Eminent Domain Problem

For months, I have mostly tried to stay out of the Iowa Caucus other than defending Donald Trump against what I felt was an unfair attack on him by the Des Moines Register.  The media has built him up and then attacked him in such a way that unintentionally kept him a front-runner for the GOP nomination.  When candidates attacked Trump, they went down in the polls.  Despite criticism of him, Trump is very smart.  He knows how to use the media and talking points to his favor and treating him like he is dumb has backfired.

There is one issue that could have hurt Trump, but it was mostly ignored and that is Trump’s eminent domain problem.  In the 1990’s, Donald Trump used the heavy hand of the state to try to take an elderly woman’s house away from her when she refused to sell it to him so he could build a limousine parking lot for a casino. David Boaz explains more in his article:

Trump turned to a government agency – the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA) – to take Coking’s property. CRDA offered her $250,000 for the property – one-fourth of what another hotel builder had offered her a decade earlier. When she turned that down, the agency went into court to claim her property under eminent domain so that Trump could pave it and put up a parking lot.

In the video below, John Stossel called Trump a bully for using government to take someone’s else property for his own economic benefit:

I can guarantee that property rights is going to continue to be an issue for the next administration to face as we see pipelines get built that benefit private companies and as we watch abuse of the Supreme Court’s 5-4 2005 Kelo decision which allows government to take private property for economic development which Trump told Fox News “I happen to agree with it 100 percent.”

At one point, conservatives and Republicans would be protesting a candidate that supported eminent domain abuse by big government, but today they are silent on the topic.   I’m not suggesting that you support or not support Donald Trump, but we at least need to do some proper vetting before we cast our votes to nominate someone that could be the next President of the United States.  The media and Trump’s opponents talking about who Trump called ugly this week or where a reporter’s blood is flowing from is not proper vetting for the serious issues of the Presidency.

Photo Credit: “Donald Trump (8567813820) (2)” by Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America – Donald Trump. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

King for a day. The rest of the year, not so much.

Since 1986, Americans have observed the third Monday of January as a federal holiday: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Schools and communities put on marches and commemorative events. Some workers (sadly not including most of the working poor of all races to whose advancement King dedicated his life) get the day off.

It’s an election year, so we can expect bombardment by politicians’ pledges of allegiance to this or that sub-set of Dr. King’s values.

Republicans will piously assure us that they hew to King’s dream of “a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Then they’ll get back to finding new ways to keep African-Americans from voting.

Democrats will highlight their support for voting rights and likely also name-check Dr. King’s final effort, the “Poor People’s Campaign,” even as they inveigh against the gun rights that made the civil rights movement possible and against the emerging sharing economy that’s freeing and empowering America’s working poor without any help from government.

Neither party’s prominent presidential candidates will likely address themselves to Dr. King’s thoughts on war and peace. The Democrats have already driven their only peace candidate, Lincoln Chafee, from the race, and on the GOP side Rand Paul’s mildly non-interventionist campaign is on life support.

King opposed the great American war of his public life, the war in Vietnam, rightly referring to the US government as “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.”

What would he think of a Democratic Party whose standard-bearers (not to mention the first African-American president!) never met a war they didn’t like, or of a Republican Party whose front-runners are so intent on fomenting war with Iran that they’d rather leave American prisoners in Iranian hands than bring them home, and posture over the Iranian release of American naval personnel caught out in a covert operation in Iranian waters as if that constituted Iran provoking the US rather than the other way around?

I was less than two years old at the time of Dr. King’s assassination. He’s never been anything but a larger-than-life historical figure to me. Nonetheless it offends me that nearly 50 years after his death he’s become a mere plaster saint, periodically and faux-prayerfully invoked by competing political factions who want to traffic on his popularity without bothering to live his values. It should offend you too.


Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

Whatever’s Going On in Oregon, It’s Not Terrorism

A key to understanding the political world lies in realizing that the words terrorism and terrorist are inherently political terms. This has been clear in international affairs, but we now see this in domestic matters, specifically the case involving ranchers Dwight and Steve Hammond and the takeover of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service building in Harney County, Oregon.

The Hammonds have been imprisoned under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, an ostentatiously get-tough bill — passed after the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building — favored by congressional Republicans and signed by triangulating Democratic President Bill Clinton, who was seeking reelection that year and whose wife, the hawkish Hillary Clinton, is seeking the presidency today. Among other things, the Act limits habeas corpus relief in federal courts for those claiming to have been unlawfully imprisoned.

The words terrorism and terrorist are also used to describe the people now occupying the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in sympathy with the Hammonds. CNN reports that “progressive” opponents of the occupiers refer to them as “YallQaeda” and “vanilla ISIS.” Some urge government violence against them.

Is this description fair? One can answer this question regardless of what one thinks of the Hammonds and the occupiers. If terrorism has any reasonable referent, it is the use of violence against noncombatants for a political purpose. The point is to terrorize by killing or injuring noncombatants, or destroying their property, in an effort to effect change.

Nowhere do we see such violence in either the Hammonds’ case or the occupation of the government building. The actions that brought criminal charges against the Hammonds consisted in setting two fires on their own land in 2001 and 2006, the first to destroy invasive vegetation, the second ostensibly to protect against a wildfire on adjacent land controlled by the central government. On both occasions the fires unintentionally spread to the government-controlled land. The Hammonds put out the first fire; the second fire reportedly endangered government firefighters, whom the Hammonds knew were in the vicinity.

Even if we grant the worst allegations — that the Hammonds wrongfully declined to inform the government that it would be setting the fires and that one fire was allegedly set to cover up poaching — the actions look nothing like terrorism. No one was intentionally threatened, and no one was injured or killed. So why were the cases prosecuted under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years? (The trial judge refused to impose the mandatory minimum, but the government appealed after the Hammonds had served their terms and they were returned to prison, sparking the protest.) Even if we make the dubious concession that the Act was a good-faith attempt to fight bona fide terrorism, what does it have to do with the Hammonds?

As for the occupiers of the government building, who now call themselves Citizens for Constitutional Freedom, again, where’s the terrorism? Yes, some occupiers are armed. But the building was unoccupied when they entered it, and no one was threatened, much less harmed or killed. It’s reported that roads around the building are open. The news media come and go at will.

In neither case was anyone terrorized. To be sure, the occupiers have a political objective, to pressure the central government into giving up control of its massive land holdings. Terrorism, however, requires a particular kind of violence along with a political motive. Critics describe the occupiers as white supremacists. I don’t know if they are, although John Ritzheimer, a spokesman for the occupiers, is an anti-Muslim activist. But regardless, their conduct in Burns, Ore., does not constitute terrorism, and no constructive purpose is served by promiscuously throwing that inflammatory word around.

I’ll leave for another time the controversy surrounding the government’s landholdings except to say that one need not regard all governments as illegitimate (as I do) to see something wrong in the U.S. government’s control of so much land, especially in the West, holdings acquired through forcible preemption. While white ranchers and anti-U.S. government activists claim that their rights and the state of Oregon’s “rights” have been usurped by the central government, largely overlooked is the solid claim of the Northern Paiute.

According to the Indian Country Today Media Network, “Ironically, the ‘legal’ basis for [the occupiers’] starting a fight with the federal government is that sovereignty ‘really’ belongs to Oregon rather than the Paiutes, who have seen their federal trust land shrink from over one and a half million acres to a tiny remnant of 760 acres in Burns, Oregon, where this current armed standoff began.” It adds, “President U.S. Grant established the Malheur Indian Reservation for the Northern Paiute in 1872…. White settlement nibbled at the Malheur Indian Reservation until the Bannock War in 1878, which ended with surrendered Paiutes and Bannocks on the reservation being removed, officially to the Yakama Reservation in Washington Territory.” (See more on the Northern Paiute claim here, here, here, and especially here.)

Citizens for Constitutional Freedom is right that the national government should vacate the land. But it’s wrong about who should have it. It was stolen from the Northern Paiute, and therefore it should be returned.

Photo Credit: “MalheurNWRHeadquarters” by CacophonyOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

Moore To Present ISU’s Martin Luther King Legacy Series Keynote On Jan 25

Author, combat veteran and Rhodes Scholar Wes Moore will present the 2016 Martin Luther King Jr. Legacy Series keynote address at Iowa State University on Monday, Jan. 25.

“Social Justice, Public Service and the Search for a Life that Matters” will be at 6 p.m. in the Memorial Union Great Hall. It is free and open to the public.

Moore’s most recent book, “The Work: My Search for a Life That Matters,” explores the meaning of success in “a volatile, difficult and seemingly anchorless world.” Moore believes that people can find the most value in work when it is based in service, selflessness and risk taking. The book debuted at No. 15 on The New York Times Best Seller List.

Moore graduated as a commissioned officer in 1998 and went on to play football at Johns Hopkins University and graduated Phi Beta Kappa. As a Rhodes Scholar, he studied international relations at Oxford University. He then served a combat tour of duty in Afghanistan as a paratrooper and captain in the United States Army. Moore went on to serve as a White House fellow to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Moore is also the author of “The Other Wes Moore,” a personal story of the mentorship and support networks that refused to let him fall into crime and drugs. He produced and hosted the three-part PBS series “Coming Back with Wes Moore,” which tells the story of soldiers attempting to reintegrate into society after returning from war.

Moore is the founder of BridgeEDU, a unique, first-year college program that combines core courses, internships and service experiences with coaching that helps students succeed. And he founded the organization STAND!, which works with Baltimore youth involved in the criminal justice system.

Moore serves on the board of the Iraq Afghanistan Veterans of America and The Johns Hopkins University. He has been featured in USA TODAY, TIME and People magazines; and on “Meet the Press,” “The Colbert Report,” MSNBC and NPR, and many other media outlets.

Photo Credit: http://theotherwesmoore.com/

The Self-Driving Dilemma: Safety Versus Freedom

A new study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute examines the difference between regular automobiles and the new “self-driving” models. According to the study (commissioned by an admittedly self-interested party, Google) humans behind the wheel crash 4.2 times per million miles, self-driving cars only 3.2 times per million miles. And the self-driving era is in its infancy. As the new cars improve, pass regulatory scrutiny and gain wider adoption, tens of thousands of lives could be saved every year in the US alone.

But even assuming the validity of the study’s findings, self-driving cars are not necessarily without their problems. Given government’s growing interest in controlling how and where Americans travel, they could become just another piece of our ever more pervasive surveillance state.

Above and beyond immediate, local situational awareness — staying on the road, keeping track of the distance from and speed of surrounding cars, etc. — self-driving cars need constant awareness of the larger environment: Where they are on the map, what turns to make to get where they’re taking you, and whether or not there are accidents, traffic jams or road repairs ahead.

While any single piece of this information might be available from a number of sources, it’s easier to get everything from one source: A network to which the car either remains connected at all times, or connects to frequently when driving. And this is a two-way street (pun intended!). The car requests information from the network … and takes instructions from the network too.

This fact creates all kinds of opportunities for abuse by government agencies with command influence over the network.

Something going on your government doesn’t want you to see? The network says there’s been a train derailment and routes all traffic so as to detour around the area.

Someone your government DOES want to see? When she gets in her car to go to work, the doors lock, she finds that she cannot turn off the engine, and she’s driven straight to the nearest police station.

I’m sure you can come up with other dystopian possibilities.

Widespread, even universal, adoption of self-driving cars is probably inevitable, and probably a good thing. It’s important that we don’t lose site of priorities other than safety and convenience, though. The market should demand, and government should be powerless to forbid, a driver prerogative of assuming manual control of his or her vehicle at any time, for any reason.


Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

Photo Credit: “Google’s Lexus RX 450h Self-Driving Car” by Driving_Google_Self-Driving_Car.jpg: Steve Jurvetsonderivative work: Mariordo – This file was derived from  Driving Google Self-Driving Car.jpg. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons.

Iran Nuclear Deal a ‘Historic Milestone’

The Arms Control Association praised the implementation of the Iran Nuclear Deal as a “historic milestone” on January 16.

In Washington D.C., EU High Representative Federica Mogherini and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that Iran, China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States completed requirements for implementing “the historic July 14 nuclear deal, which blocks Iran’s pathways to nuclear weapons and strengthens the global nonproliferation regime.”

“This hard-won nonproliferation victory demonstrates the international community’s commitment to preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and significantly diminishes the future prospect of an Iranian nuclear arsenal.”

Founded in 1971, the Washington D.C.-based ACA is described as “a national nonpartisan membership organization dedicated to promoting public understanding of and support for effective arms control policies.”

ACA Executive Director Daryl G. Kimball told Iowa Free Press, “The announcement by the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran has completed the steps required by the July 2015 nuclear deal is very good news for U.S. and international security.”

“The benefits cannot be denied and they should be welcomed by all serious political leaders and presidential aspirants,” Kimball said.

International inspectors reported on Saturday that Iran has dismantled large sections of its nuclear program to comply with the agreement, which led to the US lifting sanctions involving finance and oil it imposed on Iran.

US Secretary of State John Kerry issued a public statement on January 16 confirming that “Iran has fully implemented its required commitments as specified in Sections 15.1-15.11 of Annex V of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).”

“The U.S. sanctions-related commitments described in Sections 17.1-17.5 of Annex V of the JCPOA are now in effect,” Kerry said.

When asked about the impact the deal would have on the caucuses and the 2016 election, Kimball expressed concern for some of the presidential hopefuls about their attitudes toward this policy, particularly within the GOP.

“In their effort to round up votes, several of the Republican presidential candidates will probably continue to promise to shred the agreement if elected,” Kimball said.

With every Republican candidate publicly opposed to the nuclear deal negotiated between the US and Iran, Kimball added that the GOP’s position “is not a serious approach.”

“The agreement is not perfect,” Kimball said. “Iran still engages in reprehensible behavior. But scrapping the nuclear deal would be a monumental disaster because it would reopen the door to an Iranian nuclear bomb, totally isolate the United States from our European allies and international partners, and put us on the path to a full-blown military conflict with Iran.”

“It’s is clearly in the U.S. interest to continue work to ensure full Iranian compliance with the nuclear agreement and to meet our end of the bargain,” Kimball said.

Iranian national flag (tehran)” by Farzaaaad2000 in persian wikipedia – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

Muscatine Officer Involved In Shooting

According to the Iowa Department of Public Safety, an officer from the Muscatine Police Department deputy was involved in a shooting after a traffic stop on Friday evening.  Preliminary reports indicate that the deputy was the only one to discharge a weapon.

A press release from the Muscatine Policy Department indicates that around 10:08 p.m., a Blue 2008 Hummer was reported stolen from a restaurant parking lot.  Around 10:33 p.m. the vehicle was located by the Muscatine deputy on Hwy 61 who stopped the vehicle.  the vehicle attempted to leave the scene and stuck several parked vehicles in the process of fleeing including a law enforcement vehicle.  Law enforcement fired several shots and wounded the driver who was transported to Unity Point Hospital and transferred to the University of Iowa Hospitals.

Photo Credit: Thug outlaw69 at en.wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

Opinion: Cruz Vs Branstad-Offending The Corn God

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and his son Eric have decided to go after Senator Ted Cruz, the front runner for the Iowa Republican Caucus, because he doesn’t support extending the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) ethanol subsidy, which is their favorite government welfare program, past 2022.  For years, not supporting ethanol has been described as a third rail for politicans campaigning in Iowa.  In 2007, John Stossel even wrote an article about it called “Sacrificing Our Children to the Corn God.”

Last January, Governor Branstad helped launch America’s Renewable Future which is led by his son Eric, who some have, justly or unjustly, basically called the original affluenza teen due to his perceived benefit of having his dad as Governor.  The American Renewable Future has one candidate they attack and that is Ted Cruz.  They have spent a lot of money on fliers, radio ads, and online ads attacking the Texas Senator on the issue.  In fact, after attacking Cruz over ethanol, Governor Branstad started making “birther” claims to the media in an obvious attempt to try and hurt the Canadian born Cruz in the Iowa Caucus.

Please understand that I am not a fan or supporter of Senator Cruz.  I believe he is a panderer, a flip-flopper, and a supporter of a very dangerous foreign policy that makes us far less safe.  I wouldn’t support him in the caucus and I wouldn’t support him as the nominee.  Your opinions may differ.  That being said, this article isn’t about the record of the Texas Senator.  This article isn’t about the economics of ethanol.  This article is about the Governor of Iowa that has for decades used his power, the ethanol lobby, and political threats to get what he wants.

With Cruz winning the Iowa Caucus, the reduction of oil prices, and the longest serving Governor in United States history having lower approval numbers than President Obama does in Iowa, there is finally a threat to the long-time Branstad political machine and the Governor knows it.  The vociferous attacks on Cruz are just a sign of the panic mode they are in.

While I have said before that I wouldn’t support Cruz for the nomination, I would almost consider doing so if it sent the message to the Governor that his bullying tactics, threats, and half-truths would no longer be tolerated by the voters of Iowa.  I do hope that this is the breaking point that allows us to have serious discussions on ethanol, industrial hemp, and the death of our small Iowa communities.   As soon as we can have rational discussions without Branstad’s fear of punishment from Branstad’s Corn God, we can start to address the issues that we face but have long ignored for fear of stepping on Iowa’s third political rail.

Photo Credit: By Michael Vadon (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Opinion: What Caused Ben Carson’s Campaign To Implode?

There are a number of things that made Ben Carson’s campaign for President of the United States to implode. The national commentators are always going to point to his lack of foreign policy experience, but the truth is that Carson did not capitalize on his national profile. The man certainly can give a great speech, but he tends to fade into the background when he is around career politicians.

Mike Huckabee, for example, seems to be a more captivating storyteller on a debate stage. Ben Carson needed to be able to tell his great personal story on that debate stage; he needs to explain why his policy proposals will lift more people into a more promising life.

The campaign finance arm of the Carson campaign has been very strong, but the truth is that they just lost the head of that finance team. The fact of the matter is that Carson’s campaign finances are coming into question. Many people believe that his team spent too much money in the form of direct mail.

There are also complaints that important people within the campaign would bicker with each other about who had access to Dr. Carson and who did not.

Carson has some qualified people working for him in the early states, but several of his supporters recently quit in the state of New Hampshire. PAC or campaign workers resigning is typically a sign of a candidate not believing in their own strength. Workers tend to resign when they begin to question whether a candidate commits to a given state.

The national team working for Carson obviously felt that Carson’s national polls would continue to rise, and his would lead to success in the individual states. Ben Carson has to be able to understand that he has to raise his overall policy chops and thus becoming a more notable speaker. His numbers have to rise past the likes of Marco Rubio. You really don’t want to worry about the Human Resources Department of a campaign when you are chasing a U.S. Senator from a large state in the polls.

If you do not see a bigger debate performance from Ben Carson, the money will begin to dry up. Carson did hire some good grassroots people to run the individual states for him, but can those Tea Party Patriots keep that consistent level of fervor up for their candidate? That is the important rhetorical question that the Carson campaign has to answer.

Photo Credit:
“Ben Carson by Gage Skidmore 7” by Gage Skidmore. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ben_Carson_by_Gage_Skidmore_7.jpg#/media/File:Ben_Carson_by_Gage_Skidmore_7.jpg