Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Rebellion In Reno!

Mitt Romney won the Nevada Republican primary in January. Ron Paul came in second and John McCain came in third. But now that Romney has dropped out of the race, how should Nevada's delegates to the national convention be divvied up between the two remaining candidates? Mitt himself gave a speech at the Nevada GOP state convention, urging delegates to rally behind John McCain.

Ron Paul supporters at the state convention came up with their own unique and novel idea how to decide: Why not vote on it? What a concept!

Since the vast majority of the delegates assembled were Paulistas, they were easily able to vote through a rule change that allowed a vote on the state's national delegates. Then they hit a brick wall.

Looking around at a sea of Ron Paul supporters, Republican Party officials, anxious to rubberstamp John McCain's nomination, had sudden misgivings about all this democracy stuff.

"We need to strike a compromise between perfect democracy and getting things done," said one McCain delegate amidst a chorus of boos and cat calls. Translation: Screw the vote, McCain gets the delegates.

"McCain won fair and square," McCain delegate Daniel Hancock said of the state's third-place finisher. "So, at this point we are electing delegates not to fight out the nomination in Minneapolis, but probably rewarding people loyal to the party."

"This is still a McCain convention," explained Ryan Erwin, a Republican consultant from Las Vegas. "But at the end of the day, part of the job of being a national delegate is to do what is best for the party in November. And that means supporting the party's nominee."

Party officials stonewalled until late into the evening, then played the "Golly, look at the time!" card. The convention was abruptly adjourned without any delegates to the national convention in Minneapolis having been chosen.

The Nevada GOP convention will be convened again... sometime. Using the "heads we win, tails we flip again" method of politics, it will be convened at time and location more amenable to the party leadership. When they do allow a vote, I'm predicting another stunning victory for Senator John Sidney McCain III.

I still have faith in our constitutional republic, but the two political parties that have grown upon it like twin barnacles are increasingly showing themselves for the corrupt oligarchies that they are. The political system needs to be stripped back to the bare studs (i.e. the U.S. Constitution and the respective constitutions of the states) and started over from scratch.

And as long as we're dreaming, perhaps Barry Goldwater and the Gipper could come back down here and kick these people SQUARELY IN THE ASS! (With a little help from Ron Paul, of course!)

Sunday, April 27, 2008


"Each soldier a good marksman! Each shot a hit!"

The rifle and its accurate use came to the fore during our own American Revolution. Major General Charles Lee, George Washington's right hand man, had this to say: “The frontier riflemen will make fine soldiers…(because of)... above all, the dexterity to which they have arrived in the use of the rifle gun. There is not one of these men who wish a distance less than 200 yards or greater object than an orange. Every shot is fatal.”

Colonel Daniel Morgan eventually commanded ten companies of sharp-shooting frontier riflemen and taught them to "shoot for the epauletts", i.e. individually target British officers. They were successful enough that the August 1775 London Chronicle said to "...advise your officers who shall hereafter come out to America to settle their affairs in England before their departure.”

The British learned these painful lessons and used their own special units of riflemen, the Green Jackets, in the Peninsula War against Napoleon. They too "picked on" officers and they too were successful; a French field marshall complained to Paris that he had only 2-3 officers left per battalion.

During the Boer War, Dutch-speaking backwoodsmen and farmers in South Africa, numbering 40,000 at best, tied up and fought to a near standstill a British Army of 600,000 men with modern equipment for 3 years. British General Methuen noted,, "I never saw a Boer, but even at 2,000 yards when I rode a horse I had a hail of bullets around me.”

In The Great Boer War, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle eloquently described the action at Colenso and the effect of the Boer rifle fire among the ranks of the Irish Brigade:“No sign of the enemy could be seen, though the men were dropping fast. It is a weird and soul-shaking experience to advance over a sunlit and apparently a lonely countryside, with not the slightest movement upon its broad face, while the path which you take is marked behind you by sobbing, gasping, writhing men, who can only guess by the position of their wounds whence the shots came which struck them down. All round, like the hissing of fat in the pan, is the monotonous crackle and rattle of the Mausers; but the air is full of it, and no one can define exactly whence it comes. Far away on some hill upon the skyline there hangs the least gauzy veil of thin smoke to indicate whence the six men who have just all fallen together, as if it were some grim drill, met their death. Into such a hell-storm as this it was that the soldiers have again and again advanced in the course of this war..."

General Methuen later advised the British high command to stress, "Good shooting, accurate judging of distance, and intelligent use of ground." By the time WWI came about, British infantrymen were well practiced in the "Mad Minute", being required to shoot, with a bolt-action Lee-Enfield, 15 shots in one minute and to place them all in a 2-foot circle at 300 yards.

The effects of such rifle marksmanship were seen and felt in the opening battles of the Great War. Private Smiley of the Gordon Highlanders noted of advancing German infantry: "Poor devils! They advanced in companies of quite 150 men in files five deep, and our rifle has a flat trajectory up to 600 yards. Guess the result. We could steady our rifles on the trench and take deliberate aim. The first company was mown down by a volley at 700 yards, and in their insane formation every bullet was almost sure to find two billets. The other companies kept advancing very slowly, using their dead comrades as cover, but they had absolutely no chance."

After facing such fire, German commanders reported that British units must have 28 machine guns per battalion; they actually had only 2.

The United States Marine Corps, long known for its shooting prowess, also stopped German attacks cold with rifle fire after American entered the war.

A Marine Captain Thomason spoke of the effectiveness of such marksmanship in his book Fix Bayonets. "The Bosche wanted Hill 142; he came and the rifles broke him and he came again. All his artillery was in action and his machine guns scoured the place, but he could not make headway against the rifles. Guns he could understand; he knew all about bombs and auto-rifles and machine-guns and trench mortars, but aimed sustained rifle fire that comes from nowhere in particular and picks men off-it brought the war home to the individual and demoralized him."

In the Russo-Finnish Winter War of 1939-40, tiny Finland fought the Soviet juggernaut to a standstill, inflicting, according to Nikita Kruchev, approximately a million casualties. The Finns had no real air force to speak of, very little artillery, and few machine guns; they won with rifles, in the main. One Russian general noted of the eventual Soviet "victory", "We have won just enough ground to bury our dead."

Tiny Switzerland, although forced to make some concessions to get enough food to feed her people, remained one of only 4 neutral countries in Europe not invaded by the Nazis even though surrounded by belligerents (Germany & Italy) on all sides. This was in large part due to a determined defense of their mountains, with up to one fifth of its population under arms, almost all of them crack marksmen. One Swiss newspaper said in 1940: "In ever Swiss house is a rifle, and every village, even the small villages, has a shooting association...Our marksmen know how to shoot...They want to defend their homes."

In WWII, German Mountain Troops, or Gebirgsjaeger, were elite units. They also stressed rifle marksmanship. Their manuals continually noted things like, "In training the individual rifleman, the most important thing is marksmanship. The various firing positions will be practiced with and without skis. Training as sharpshooters with rifles equipped with telescopic sights, and with semiautomatic rifles, will be particularly stressed.”

In the Maylay Emergency of the 1950's and early 1960's, the only really successful counter-insurgency conducted by a Western power, British forces again found combat effectiveness through crack marksmanship. The commander, General Sir Gerland Templer, had four keys he stressed for winning the conflict. Number Two on that list was: "Secondly, the vital importance of accurate and quick shooting, particularly with single shot weapons (bolt actions). If only we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.”

In the 1970's, Rhodesia won a tactical victory in the field (but suffered a strategic defeat at the peace table, thanks in no small part to the UN) with training that stressed, "The vital importance of accurate and quick shooting from all positions and all types of cover.” and “A high standard of weapons training, marksmanship and a thorough understanding and instinctive awareness of weapon capabilities and limitations will ensure that encounter actions are successfully executed.”

Perhaps things have changed since I was in the service and Scouts rode dinosaurs and could call for fire using a map and compass rather than a GPS, but US Army marksmanship used to be abysmal. General "Lightning Joe" Collins noted that if you do everything else right, but can't hit your targets, you will fail and the Rhodesians noted that all the IA (Immediate Action) drills in the world are useless if you can't hit your targets.

Fortunately you, as a pesky civilian, can learn to shoot as well as the Brits and the Boers, the Swiss and the Finns.

The program is called Appleseed, put on by "Fred" of Fred's M14 Stocks, and the RWVA, Revolutionary War Veterans Association, of Ramsuer, North Carolina. They are all about training, and even old dogs can learn new tricks and forget bad habits; there is no competition to "lose" in and no belittling of those who are poor shooters, just instruction in how to get better. In a single weekend someone going to one of these shoots can learn to engage man-sized targets out to 400 yards with open sights. I cannot recommend this program highly enough. Check 'em out at and try to attend an Appleseed near you.

Gun Nut Roundup

Three Strikes Against Gun Owners
Story 1
Des Moines Crime Victim Screwed by "Big Pizza"

Many of you have probably already read about this, but on March 27 two young criminals tried to rob Des Moines, Iowa, Pizza Hut delivery driver James William Spiers. One robber, 18 year-old Kenneth Jimmerson (who already has a rap sheet a mile long) held a gun to Spiers' head and demanded his money. Spiers, who has an Iowa license to carry concealed-weapons, managed to draw his own pistol and shot Jimmerson. Jimmerson and his skanky gal-pal Melanie Stout were both arrested and Jimmerson was treated for his wounds. Police filed no charges against Spiers as it was obviously self-defense, the most basic human right.

While Spiers was clearly well within his rights as defined by God and the State of Iowa, he ran afoul of something a little more stringent: company policy. Pizza Hut does not allow its drivers to carry guns on the job, even if they are licensed by the state to do so. So, instead of a hero's welcome, Pizza Hut gave single-parent Spiers a pink-slip.

Delivering pizzas in large cities really is a dangerous job. Think about it, deliverymen have to walk into unfamiliar places in the dark of night, usually carrying a sack of money. No cop in the world would do this without backup and a pistol on their hip.

I remember in 2002, a Pizza Hut delivery driver in Marion, Iowa, wasn't so lucky as Speirs. Deliveryman Greg Wells showed up at an apartment and a young lady beckoned him in to pay him. As soon as he stepped in, a young man jumped out of a closet and beat Wells to death with a hammer. Then they slit his throat for good measure. This, apparently, is the scenario that Pizza Hut prefers for its drivers. Pizza Hut's v.p. for human resources, Vonnie Walbert, says that drivers are not allowed to bear arms "because we believe that that is the safest for everybody." Tell that to Greg Well's widow, Ms. Walbert!

If you would like to give your views on Pizza Hut's policy of delivering-up unarmed victims as well as tasty vittles, click here or try calling 1-800-948-8488.

Story 2
Reverend Remanded by Rascally Reds

Pastor Phillip Miles of Conway, South Carolina got busted for smuggling contraband into Russia. No, the pastor didn't have a balloon of cocaine up his bum, he had a 20 round box of hunting ammo at the bottom of his suitcase.

He had declared the ammunition for U.S. customs on the way out and ammunition wasn't on the list of prohibited items that was given to Miles by officials. At the Russian airport it was explained that the ammo was verboten, so Miles handed it over dutifully and went on his way. But when he returned to the airport to fly back to The States, Russian government thugs were waiting for him. They threw him in jail on February 3 and he's still there.

At the risk of understatement: A dank commie jail cell is not a good place for a middle-aged preacher with health problems. Since this man is a United States citizen, not an illegal alien, the Bush administration might not feel inclined to defend him much. You can go to Gun Owners of America's site to send a pre-written email to Bush officials and your congresscritter, urging them to help Pastor Miles.

Story 3
Iowa State Government Keeps Sucking and Sucking...

A bill designed to cleanup Iowa's concealed-weapons permit system died quietly in Des Moines last week. This bill would have made training and issuance standards uniform throughout the state. Even such modest reform to the state's system proved too worrisome to the hand-wringing, wussy, Democrat-controlled Iowa legislature. I hope that Bawb has extra room in his mountaintop bunker for me.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Movie Review: "The Final Season"

I did something yesterday that I very seldom do: I bought a dvd movie without having ever seen the movie. But if you live in Iowa it's your duty to buy any Iowa movies. "The Final Season" is definitely an Iowa movie. It's filmed in Iowa, about Iowa, and I watched it in Iowa!

It tells the true story of the 1991 high school baseball team of little Norway Iowa. Norway takes baseball seriously. Despite having a population of only 586, Norway produced 16 professional ballplayers and had won 19 state high school championships in 25 years, by the beginning of the film. Much of their success was owed to longtime coach Jim Van Scoyoc.

Coach Van Scoyoc is portrayed by crusty actor Powers Boothe, who you may know from TV's "Deadwood," but I know from two of my favorite movies: "Red Dawn" and "Southern Comfort." Before Von Scoyoc can lead the boys to their twentieth state championship, it is announced that the Norway school will be closed (by a bunch of bureaucrats which the film goes out of its way to portray as heartless meanies) and merged with a larger school nearby. In order to crush the spirit of the small town and to condition it for assimilation into the bigger down, the school board sacks Coach Von Scoyoc and replaces him with rookie coach Kent Stock, a former girls volleyball coach.

Coach Stock is portrayed by Goony turned hobbit Sean Astin, who's other sports movie was "Rudy." Rather than "drop the ball" and lead the team to defeat, as the school board hoped, Coach Stock rallies the team and leads them into one memorable final season. I won't tell you everything that happens.

Iowa native and Roseanne Barr's former boy-toy Tom Arnold has a small part in the film and manages not to ruin it. That old guy with a deep, gravelly voice, that I've seen in many films from "Cold Mountain" to "Cabin Boy," also has a part. So do Rachel Leigh Cook and young actor Michael Angarano and some of my wife's cousins appear as extras in the crowd scenes (see if you can pick them out).

The movie was filmed in and around Cedar Rapids Iowa, so us folks in the NE part of the state have been following the film on our nightly news since it was in preproduction.

While it's not as good as the seminal Iowa baseball flick "Field of Dreams," "The Final Season" is still worth seeing. If you're an Iowan, ofcourse, you HAVE to see it, or possibly face a firing squad (and they can't even give you a last cigarette anymore).

Friday, April 18, 2008


BBB: Today here at Das Blog, we are continuing the tax coverage with our guests Senator Hugh R. Krupt (R) and Senator Judas “Pork” Beryl (D). I see you boys have already helped yourselves to the complimentary booze, so shall we get started?

Senators, last year the average American citizen spent more on taxes than on food, housing, and clothing combined. In fact, if one had to pay all his or her taxes in one lump sum, that person would be working from January 1st to May 1st just to satisfy the demands of government taxation. Don’t you think that’s a bit much? Even God Himself only asks for 10%.

Beryl: How dare you mention god?!?!? Haven’t you heard of the “wall of separation” between church and state?

BBB: Well, actually that does not appear in the First Amendment or anywhere else in the Constitution, but we must say well done on the perpetuation of a “Big Lie”. But our focus here today is on excessive taxes and run-away government spending.

Krupt: Hey, we NEED government programs to run the country. You drive on public roads and bridges, don’t you? How can we pay for that without taxing your income?

BBB: Um, it comes out of the fuel tax. Where I live, roughly fifty cents per gallon goes to state and local government.

Beryl: What about schools then, hunh? How can we educate our children? It’s for the children! You aren’t against the children are you your heartless bastard?!? We NEED public schools.”

BBB: That comes out of my property taxes. And there’s nothing in the Constitution about the federal government forming a huge and bloated Department of Education, to force its mandates and indoctrination on local schools. Our public school graduates’ test scores are the lowest of all industrialized western nations. Many high school graduates are functionally illiterate.

Beryl: It’s not about education, per se. The concept of the “3 R’s” is as outmoded as this constitution thing you keep harping on. Our children need to feel good about themselves, and that can’t happen with this silly “grades” and “scores” and “pass-or-fail” type of thinking. And it’s important to properly indoctrinate young minds not to think for themselves; that’s best left up to us, their masters, in Washington D.C.

BBB: Oh brother, I think I’ll help myself to the complimentary booze.

Krupt: GLUG, GLUG, GLUG. Too late. OK, Mr. Smarty Pants. You’re a conservative. We need taxes to keep this country safe; we need a huge military and numerous intelligence agencies to protect us from terror.

BBB: There’s a difference between Conservatives and neo-conservatives which, as Edward Abbey once pointed out, are neither new nor conservative, but old as Babylon and evil as Hell.

Krupt: Conservatism is what WE say it is. Don’t you want Homeland Security?

BBB: We’re all for securing the homeland. Why don’t we start with the borders?

Beryl: Racist! Bigot! Latino-phobe!

BBB: Heavy sigh. I see you two have both, at least for the duration of your re-election campaigns, espoused to have “common sense” tax reforms. Why don’t the two of you tell us about these, um, “common sense” tax plans.

Beryl: It’s quite simple actually. You make it, we take it.

Krupt: That’s just awful, Beryl. We do things different here at the Elephant Party. We pretend to be fiscally conservative and in favor of smaller government when we’re running for office. After we get elected, THEN the plan is: You make it, we take it.

BBB: So you’re saying lying about it somehow makes it better.

Krupt: You say potato…

Beryl: You want something that benefits you directly…

BBB: No, I’d actually rather just have you leave me the hell alone.

Beryl: Shut-up. Everybody wants benefits. So anyway, what about publicly-funded art? Without that, you would not be able to broaden your horizons with such artistic masterpieces as a picture of the Madonna smeared with human feces.

BBB: If the art is so, excuse the pun, shitty that no one in their right mind will pay to see it or buy it, it can’t be very good in the first place. Besides, I’m quite happy with Normal Rockwell, Merle Haggard, and sporting goods calendars with hunting dogs on them.

Krupt: (SNEERING) Fly-over Country cretin. Hillbilly. To think you’re allowed the same vote as we are! We’re working on that, though. Well, Mr. I-Don’t-Need-The-Federal-Government, what about the War On Drugs? Hunh? We’re saving you from that.

BBB: We’ve spent how many billions on that and have accomplished what, other than the destruction of private property rights?

Beryl: We also have the War on Poverty. We’re helping people. It’s for the children. You can’t argue about that.

BBB: Yes I can. You’ve been waging that war for close to four decades now and have nothing to show for it. In fact, when it comes to welfare, the Federal bureaucracy eats ninety cents on the dollar, leaving a dime going to the supposed “needy” recipients. Besides, no matter what the problem is, drugs or poverty or whatever, once a huge, bloated bureaucracy is formed it only “manages” the problem for eternity, since to actually solve it would mean lots of bureaucrats would lose their cushy phoney-baloney jobs.


Beryl: (SNORT) I suppose you think you should just keep your own money to spend on what you need?!?

BBB: Sounds good to me.

Krupt: Blasphemer! Only we know how to spend your money wisely!

BBB: Then why are we over $9 Trillion in debt, and sinking further as we speak? If it’s “for the children”, why are we mortgaging their very souls?


Krupt: How dare you question us?!?! We are SENATORS!

BBB: Last time I checked, there was still a First Amendment to the Constitution.

Krupt: We’re working on that too.

Beryl: What’s with all this “constitution” crap anyway? What does that have to do with governing the country? Besides, isn’t talking about it “domestic terrorist” stuff?

Krupt: Yeah. Perhaps a cell in Gitmo will make him a little more respectful towards his betters. You wanna call the Obergruppenfuhrer, or should I?

BBB: Well, it’s about time to wrap this up. I need to retire to the bunker and load some additional spare rifle magazines. Lots of ‘em. Griz here will see you “gentlemen” out.

Griz: Growl! Bark! Bark! Snarl! Bite! Snap! Tear!

Krupt/Beryl: IIIIIEEEE! RUN!!!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Three Peas In A Pod; Wal-Mart Turns Big Brother

McCain, Obama and Hillary will be appearing in a tv commercial for New York City Mayor Bloomberg's anti-Second Amendment organization. Also, in a deal with that organization, Wal-Mart agreed to videotape gunsale transactions and keep additional records of who bought what. Read the full story at

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Taxes Schmaxes

Tuesday is April 15, the most sacred holy day on the federal government's calender, the day that income tax returns are due. So, if you haven't started yours yet, good luck! As you're wasting your valuable time digging through forms and going cross-eyed looking at tax tables, just remember: You're not alone.

According to the Tax Foundation, in 2005 individuals, businesses, and nonprofits spent about 6 billion hours complying with the federal income tax code, costing the economy over $265.1 billion. That 6 billion man-hours per year represents a work force of over 2,884,000 people. That's larger than the populations of Dallas, Detroit and Washington, D.C. combined. Imagine if the federal government sent in troops to commandeer the populations of those three cities and forced them all to do paperwork. The American people might (might!) get upset about that, but that's essentially what the government does every year by making us comply with the labyrinthine tax code.

The cost of complying with the tax code falls disproportionately on the poor and small businesses. The amount of money spent on tax preparation represents a higher percent of their incomes than of higher income taxpayers and large corporations. You heard me right liberals, the income tax is REGRESSIVE!

Also, since all businesses pass these compliance costs onto consumers, we all end up paying about 25% more for the goods and services we consume. So the guy with a minimum wage job ends up paying the income taxes for huge corporations every time he buys himself a pop or a bag of chips.

Long story short: The income tax sucks a fat one. Isn't there a better way? Why, yes, there is! The purely libertarian answer is- scrap the income tax and replace it with nothing. The United States went a long time without one before. But, since there's no way that the federal government will ever stop its big spending ways cold turkey, (unless there's some kind of economic Armageddon or armed revolt [down Bawb, down!]), we have to find a fairly "revenue-neutral" plan that is significantly better than the income tax. That would be the FairTax.

The FairTax (yes, it's one word) is a plan to replace the income tax with a national retail sales tax. Not only would you NOT have to file a return, the feds wouldn't skim anything off your weekly paycheck. All the federal taxes you would pay would be at the cash register.

To use's own description: "The FairTax plan is a comprehensive proposal that replaces all federal income and payroll based taxes with an integrated approach including a progressive national retail sales tax, a prebate to ensure no American pays federal taxes on spending up to the poverty level, dollar-for-dollar federal revenue replacement, and, through companion legislation, the repeal of the 16th Amendment. This nonpartisan legislation (HR 25/S 1025) abolishes all federal personal and corporate income taxes, gift, estate, capital gains, alternative minimum, Social Security, Medicare, and self-employment taxes and replaces them with one simple, visible, federal retail sales tax -- administered primarily by existing state sales tax authorities. The IRS is disbanded and defunded. The FairTax taxes us only on what we choose to spend on new goods or services, not on what we earn. The FairTax is a fair, efficient, transparent, and intelligent solution to the frustration and inequity of our current tax system."

Although any tax system is a pain in the butt, the FairTax would be a vast improvement over the current system. It would eliminate the hidden income tax compliance costs passed on to consumers so our goods will be more competitive abroad and cheaper at home (making the new tax less noticeable at the cash register too). It would free up your entire paycheck and stop taxing the interest you earn. People who don't file income tax returns, such as drug dealers and illegal aliens, will begin to pay their fair share.

The FairTax plan seems to be gaining momentum. It was supported by Mike Huckabee, Ron Paul, Mike Gravel and a couple other presidential candidates. It is co-sponsored by a few Democrats and Republicans in Congress every year. The fact that a majority of elected Democrats and Republicans don't support it means it's gotta be good. It's the 21st century, it's time for the early-industrial-era income tax to go!

Find out more at:

Friday, April 11, 2008

Iowa Health-Nazi Update: Legislators Say "Nein!" to Zigaretten

Des Moines-- Iowa's legislature has passed a far-reaching, paternalistic smoking ban in the Hawkeye State. It would ban smoking in just about every place where the public can congregate, except casinos. It is now headed for Governor Culver, who is expected to gleefully sign it into law. "Gov. Culver congratulates the House and Senate for working together on this important initiative which will make Iowa a healthier state," said Culver spokescritter Brad Anderson. The ban might make the state "healthier," but will it make the people of Iowa freer?

The ban is first and foremost an affront to personal choice. It's ironic that the liberals who like to call themselves "pro-choice" are the first to rally behind these big government "wellness" programs designed to rob you of the choice of how you live your life.

I can hear the shrill, whiny reply: "But Ben, what about the people who work in these smokey environments? They don't have any choice!" But, unless someone is holding a gun to their heads, they DO have a choice. They can quit if they feel that the threat to their health outweighs the potential loss of income from leaving. It may not be an easy choice, but it's a choice.

The Health-Nazis think that people shouldn't have to make important decisions regarding their own lives. They believe that's what government is for. If they can make this decision for you, to ensure that you will be a healthy and productive taxpayer, then they could also choose what foods you eat, what exercise you do, or anything else that they think "will make Iowa a healthier state." Every new dollar that the state or federal government spends on providing healthcare gives the Health-Nazis even more incentive to barge further into your life, to make sure that that money isn't wasted on cupcake-snarfing chain-smokers.

The ban is also an affront to property rights. Proponents of the ban say that it bans smoking in public places. It does, but it also bans smoking in privately-owned places open to the public.

If I own a bar (which, by the way, are usually really bad investments) or restaurant I should be able to decide whether or not to allow smoking because it's MY place. Actually, if I'm a good business man, I wouldn't decide whether to allow smoking or not, the market would. If enough patrons demand a smoke-free environment to drink hooch and get their faces slapped, it would be non-smoking. Either way, the state can and should eat my shorts.

Interestingly, the state exempted casino gaming floors from the ban. That, no doubt, has nothing to do with the fact that casinos extract a lot of dough from Iowans and out-of-staters alike, and send a lot of that money to Des Moines. No, this about health and health alone.

Perhaps Iowa should change it's motto. "Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain," is so passe. How about: "Our bodies we prize and our health will be maintained."

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go eat beansprouts on my treadmill, lest I get a bayonet through the lung.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Are You $820 Billion Safer?

This months Reason magazine has a good article titled "The Trillion-Dollar War." It details the political shell-game that the Bush administration and Congress are playing with the financing of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Rather than funding them through the usual means, they are financing them through "emergency supplemental appropriations" that are separate from normal defense spending and are exempt from the few remaining restraints that Congress puts on spending. For instance, "emergency" funding doesn't count towards the governments deficit projections, making the DC government appear more fiscally conservative than it is. (It's worse than it looks? Yikes!)

Five years into the war in Iraq and seven years into Afghanistan, the nebulous "War on Terror" should hardly still be a "surprise" emergency anymore. You would almost think that Congress and the Pentagon could plan for it, but no, it's ramrodded through as emergency add-ons, as if it was just sprung on them. While previous administrations used emergency funding in the initial stages of wars that sprung up, they soon had to budget for them once they were up and running.

Since no congress-critter wants to vote against any defense spending bill, for fear of being called weak or accused of disarming our brave soldiers, these emergency funding bills have become a favorite vehicle for getting wasteful pork projects through Congress. The most recent "war" supplemental appropriation, signed by El Presedente in June 2007, contained $24 billion in nonemergency spending including: $120 million for shrimp and menhaden fishermen, $60 mill for salmon fisheries, $283 mill for the Milk Income Loss Contract program, and $100 mill for California citrus growers. (Mmm... shrimp, salmon, milk and fruit. Proof that you should neither shop nor legislate while hungry.)

The Reason article included an interesting table listing the cost of current and past U.S. wars.

Cost of U.S. Wars in 2007 Dollars
(in $ billions)

American Revolution: $4

War of 1812: $1

Mexican War: $2

Civil War (Union and Confederate costs): $81

Spanish-American War: $7

WW1: $364

WW2: $3,200

Korean War: $691

Vietnam War: $650

Persian Gulf War: $92

Iraq/Afghanistan (through FY08 request): $820

(Source: Reason magazine- May 2008)

As you can see, only World War II has cost us more than the "War on Terror." Since, unlike WWII, the current war has no clearly defined victory conditions, it may end up costing us much more before it's done.

If the American people decide that the ever-shifting goalposts of the "War on Terror" are truly worthwhile, I hope that they will at least demand that the war be conducted with fiscal prudence. I'm sure that will happen.