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Federalism: Let’s build something together



As a political writer and opinion columnist, I swim in an ocean of criticism.

The outrage culture we’ve built over the last 20 years — for which Sean Hannity and Trevor Noah bear equal blame — has degenerated healthy debate into insults, shouts, jeers, slurs, and just so, so much anger.

It’s not that we argue too much — I actually wish Americans argued more—and better — but we do sometimes fall into a rut of criticism that we’re unwilling to climb out of.

See, argument is a structured discussion used to discern the truth of a proposition, and if we had more arguments we would have less outrage, shouting, and street fights. The lack of actual argument has left us unable to discern and defend truth, which is why we spend so much time screaming our baseless opinions at others, and getting offended when others scream theirs at us.

It’s an untenable situation, and one that will likely resolve itself as soon as people start caring more about what’s true than what’s polite.

Like argument, there’s an appropriate place for criticism and even condemnation. Law enforcement officers who abuse their power should be criticized. Alt-right “race realists” intent on rekindling 1930s ethnofascism should be condemned, along with their violent, pro-censorship Antifa counterparts on the Left.

Criticism is meant to pressure, to challenge, to motivate toward something higher. Condemnation is meant to isolate something harmful, letting others know to stay away for their own good and the good of society.

But the problem we face is that both of these important tools are habitually abused.

Criticism isn’t meted out reasonably in hopes of modifying behavior, it is piled on everyone as a way to elevate the one offering the critique. Condemnation isn’t reserved for the truly heinous among us, it is slopped on indiscriminately like mayo on a McChicken.

Convinced of the impossibility of maintaining standards, we hitch our wagons to the slogan “nobody’s perfect” and seek equality around the lowest common denominator, by hanging every mistake around the neck of those who aspire to something higher.

And so doing, our entire generation is missing the opportunities laid right in front of us:

Build something. Create something. Improve something.






Before I get too close to sounding like an inspirational poster, I need to narrow the scope of what I’m talking about. Let’s strip away the layers of presuppositions that have built up over the years, and address the things we all care about — most of which have nothing to do with the issues that fill the headlines any given day.

One of the more insidious side-effects of the two-party system is that it has turned everything in the world into zeroes and ones. We know how we’re supposed to think about different things, based on who we identify with.

Republicans in New Hampshire are supposed to obsess over illegal immigration — even though they’re 2000 miles from the southern border — because, well, they’re Republicans.

California Democrats feel compelled to take a position against North Carolina’s bathroom segregation, despite the fact that it has no impact whatsoever on their state.

We square off against each other on social media, fishing for clues to confirm what column the other person belongs in, rather than judging whether their arguments are valid.

Less than halfway through this column, odds are you’ve already scoped out my profile, followed a couple links, and browsed the comments or my prior articles to decide whether you should share this or mock it.

We all do. It’s the norm now. And it’s cynical and destructive.

Partisanship and identity politics are tearing the nation apart, and the only people who benefit from it are those who receive the blind loyalty it creates.

But many articles have been written on the problem — it’s time to address solutions — and that’s where things get sticky.

On one hand there’s no silver bullet solution to “making America great again”, and anybody pitching one is usually out to make a buck. Red and blue America learned to resent each other decades ago; it’s not going to be undone overnight.

On the other hand, it’s lazy and intellectually irresponsible to suggest that we continue doing what we’re doing, and just accept the fact that left and right will always hate each other, battle in the street, and post gory imagesof severed heads in place of civil dialogue.

Given current trends, we can’t continue, even if we wanted to. Normal, reasonable Americans are abandoning both major parties at either an alarming or encouraging rate, depending on your perspective. “Independent” continues to rule the national party affiliation race by a wide margin, and third party presidential voting rose 300% from 2008 to 2012, and 800% from 2008 to 2016, despite some of the worst third party candidates in recent memory.

So the question we face isn’t whether the political landscape in the US will change, but rather what it will change to: a perpetual battlefield between increasingly partisan extremes, or an open marketplace of political ideals offered representation within competing jurisdictions — an appified version of government that fits with where culture and technology have already been for years.

The answer was baked into the country by the radical progressives (of their day) who founded it — Federalism.

Federalism has a way of relieving all kinds of tension and returning relationships to normal by developing and maintaining separate spheres of influence. This works with government just as it does for business or even family — who doesn’t have a better relationship with their parents after moving out?

Obviously there are a few things that the whole country needs to agree on in order to maintain a united identity and share the same space, but we shouldn’t have to agree on everything. For a culture that emphasizes diversity, we seem incredibly hostile to the idea that people in different regions should be allowed to have different lifestyles and priorities.

The trend in American politics over the last few decades has been to nationalize every single dispute, either through Congress, executive order, or — most often — the Supreme Court. Every special interest group seeks to wield the Federal government like a cudgel against their political opposition, and so doing, establishes the precedent for the other side to beat them with it given the first electoral opportunity.

Aside from being incredibly uncharitable and narrow-minded, this form of governance is backward, inefficient, and, well, stupid.

It creates redundancies at every level of government, as federal departments conflict with state departments, which in turn conflict with city and county policies established in the interests of folks in those locales. It fails to balance the different views of people in different places with different jobs, lifestyles, and priorities.

Many have written on what I believe to be the most important divide in America today — the rural/urban divide — but few have put forward any ideas to deal with the divergent subcultures.

It’s a real problem, and one extremely evident in my home state of Iowa. Our century-old farm culture is often at odds with the growing segment of the population living in the cities and taking service jobs. The Republican-controlled state legislature has declared war on blue-leaning city governments around the state, using preemption laws to block those cities from instituting policies that conflict with their own.

Over the last eight years, red America encountered a similar problem, and states fought tooth and nail to nullify President Obama’s far-reaching executive initiatives on immigration, health care, housing, climate change, and more.

This “standardize everything” mentality causes gears to grind between each level of the government machine, and ultimately you end up with multi-tiered bureaucracy that is bulky, unresponsive, and useless to most people who are more interested in building a new deck and taking a second job as an Uber driver than arguing the merits of traditional marriage or the war on terror.

What’s really interesting about this stubborn trend in American government is that it stands in stark opposition to pretty much every other cultural trend. Millennials have embraced small businesses over global corporations, customization over comprehensiveness, and individuality over uniformity.

We reshape the world with technology, defying convention and challenging time-honored societal institutions with innovative new concepts. We seek the compartmental, the object-oriented, the personalized, the individual, in everything we do.

Except government.

When it comes to the political system, most Americans — millennials included — are still content to let partisanship guide the system, and pretend to enjoy the biannual knock-down-drag-out that leaves the same two groups of people in charge of our everyday lives.

We have a million different options on our cell phones covering everything from food and fitness to business and entertainment, but when it comes to government, we have only two options — and pretty much every data set you’ll find suggests that few people are excited about either of them.

What if we applied the lessons we’ve learned in every other area of society to government for a change?

What if we increased choice by allowing more parties to develop and challenge the big two?

What if we modernized our electoral system to eliminate gerrymandering, and increase access and transparency for average people looking to make an impact on their government without having to take up activism as a full-time job?

What if you could invest in what you care about through an app in your pocket, rather than by standing in the freezing cold collecting petition signatures?

What if we created an object-oriented system of government that allowed your city or state to reflect the things that are important to you, without asking permission from Washington first?

What if the appetite for Federalism both on the Left and the Right brought us back to a place where we could agree to disagree again?

What if we actually believed in ourselves, and in our ability to break out of the two party shell and build something together?

Joel Kurtinitis is co-founder of the US Federalist Party and a columnist for the Des Moines Register. Joel was a Regional Director for Ron Paul 2012 and served on the State Central Committee of the Republican Party of Iowa. He co-founded Liberty Iowa in the wake of the Paul campaign, and organized the Free DC Project during the government shutdown of 2013. When not busy setting the virtual world aflame with controversy, Joel is actually an okay guy who enjoys reading, cooking, chess, bluegrass music, and an occasional foray into fiction writing. Joel and his family live in Des Moines, IA.

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  1. Doug Olson

    August 8, 2017 at 1:14 pm

    Excellent article

  2. Eric Dixon

    August 8, 2017 at 8:52 pm

    I was wondering just how bad those third party candidates were, and why I didn’t remember any of them. Then I clicked on the link.

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Guns and Crime

My city is conducting covert taxation by shaking us down. I bet yours is too!



Most of us remember the Disney cartoon movie when we were kids, Robin Hood. Various animals played the characters. The movie opens with the Sheriff of Nottingham bullying the poor into giving him what little money they have as “taxes.” He even took from the old and infirm. This was done to show that he clearly was a bad guy. We wouldn’t imagine that this would happen with our modern police today, right?


As I wrote about a couple of months ago when illustrating how judicial tyranny could affect all of us, whether it be in big ways or small ways, back on November 10th I received a ticket for not wearing a seatbelt. I was not driving too fast, swerving, texting while driving, or anything else that could possibly endanger any other person. I was simply going home for lunch from work. It’s a 3 minute drive. This cop was hiding under the overpass and decided to pull me over, because in a large city that is a conduit for drug and human trafficking, this is where the San Antonio Police Department’s resources are best spent, apparently.

Now, a little background. The SAPD’s Chief, William McManus, is currently under investigation for having let more than a dozen people being trafficked go without so much as identifying them. The driver of the truck carrying them was arrested and charged, but his human cargo was just released into the winds. This is the man running the department that decided that my not wearing a seatbelt was worthy of a day’s pay in a tax.

Of course, that was just an excuse. Now, I’m not saying people shouldn’t wear their seatbelts. I in fact DO wear my seatbelt 99.9% of the time. I didn’t have it on at this particular moment because I’d taken it off to reach down for some water. I suffer from migraine headaches and had a bad one on this particular day. I was on my way home for my lunch hour just to get a few minutes of peace and quiet. This police officer decided to ruin my day and didn’t even bother to ask the circumstances.

Now, without a doubt, many of you reading are saying “well, you should have worn your seatbelt!” Fine. But how many of you saying that are fine with motorcyclist riding without helmets. Or bicycles without helmets. Or having an abortion? Yes, I went there. After all, it’s MY BODY isn’t it? I should be able to decide what I want to do with MY BODY, shouldn’t I? I promise you the government lawyers I had to deal with felt that way. And yet, they had no problem telling me what to do with MY BODY when it came to wearing a seatbelt.

I could have paid the ticket and moved on with my life. And if I’d been speeding, or if I’d had my KIDS in the truck without seatbelts I would have (would never have happened) I would have paid the ticket and moved on. But this felt too much like the Sheriff of Nottingham shaking me down for money. I showed up for court and asked for a jury trial. The government lawyer sneered arrogantly at me. I was undeterred. I was assigned a court date nearly 2 MONTHS later. I showed up for that date only to have the prosecutor ask for a continuance because the police officer was “in training.”

And this is where the scam becomes obvious. I argued to the judge that this shouldn’t be allowed, that the police department and the prosecutor’s office could have coordinated and informed me this was going to happen so I didn’t have to take a day off work. I was told “that’s not how it works.” So the trial was reset for 5 March.

A few weeks later I got a notification in the mail that the trial date had been reset AGAIN for 19 March. Wait, huh? I thought that’s not how it worked?

I did some research and looked at the San Antonio City Budget. The last one available was from 2016. It showed the city planned to make approximately $12.2M in fines and forfeitures, meaning they were COUNTING on citizens being fined to make the city work. Well, they only collected about $10.7M, which is a shortfall of $1.5M. They couldn’t let that happen again. So they’ve got cops out there shaking down honest citizens for money. Why go that route? Because as most people I know admitted to me, they would have just paid it and moved on. That’s what the city of San Antonio is counting on. They have a money-making factory that they COUNT on to make the city work. They can’t raise taxes because they’d get voted out of office, so they come up with this covert form of taxation, knowing most people will just pay it and move on.

My 19 March court date arrived and the charges were dropped because “the officer didn’t remember enough about the incident.” Well, maybe if he wasn’t out giving so many bogus tickets he’d remember more of the ones that matter. Several other tickets from the same officer were also dropped. The city didn’t want to spend the money on my constitutional right of a trial. They count on most people just paying and moving on. The certainly didn’t want me making my case to a jury and nullifying their money-making scheme.

The upshot.

Well, sad for them they didn’t know who they were dealing with, and I don’t mean ME, I mean YOU, dear readers. I urge you to look into this in your own communities. Most police officers are great people who work hard to protect them. But if some are being used to shake you down for money so that liberal mayors and city councils (like the ones here in San Antonio) can spend more money paying their campaign donors back, maybe something needs to be done.

I know this seems like a small thing. It was pointed out to me “it’s worse most places in the world.” Well sure it is, but you can’t wait for things to get that bad before we do something about it. You have to stop this kind of police state in it’s tracks and do it while we still have the power to do so. Look to your local communities and see how they are collecting their money and then spending it. Hold your local leaders accountable. It’s not just Congress that shakes you down for money. And you can’t count on the national or even local media to report on this. They LIKE big government, which this supports. Make it happen, Patriots. I have faith in you.

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The Money Pit: California’s not-so-high-speed rail



Have you heard this story, a couple finds a million dollar distress sale mansion on the market for a mere $200,000? Some upgrades are needed, but overall it’s a bargain. What ensues is comedic brilliance as the owners find out the house is barely standing. They pour more and more money into the house in the classic Tom Hank’s comedy “The Money Pit.”

Just like this movie, the California High-Speed Rail has become our Money Pit, but unlike the movie, this is no laughing matter.

In 2008, California voters approved Proposition 1A, a $9.95 billion bond to partially fund an 800-mile high-speed electric train traveling up to 220 mph. The goal would be that the state would fund a third, one-third by the federal government, and the last third via private investment. Total cost was estimated at $35 billion.

What has transpired since 2008? No more federal funding and no private funding. From 800-miles we went to 520 miles, as a cost savings measure. From 220 mph we are at 110 mph in large sections of the rail, to save money of course, and a possible completion date of 2020, is now estimated to be completed by 2033.

With all these cost-saving measures you would assume the cost would come down. Unfortunately, for California taxpayers, this money pit keeps getting worse.

The price tag for all these cost-saving measures brought to you by the California High-Speed Rail Authority and the California Legislature is currently estimated at $77.3 billion. But wait you want more savings and fiscal responsibility, too bad, because this $77.3 billion estimate may ultimately cost California taxpayers $98.1 billion. My prediction is it will be even higher.

At this point, it might be cheaper and faster to build a Death Star instead. Not to mention more useful.

This is not what the voters were promised. We did not approve a not-so-high-speed train with a price tag most likely ten times the initial projected cost to California taxpayers.

This boondoggle of a money pit must be stopped. Those billions can be used to help repair our roads, highways, bridges, dams, water reservoirs, and critical infrastructure.

If elected to be California’s next State Controller and Chief Financial Officer, I will look at all legal means to cut funding to this project. In my opinion, if we bought one thing and are getting something else, then the authorization to fund this project has not been authorized by the people, and thus the Controller may have the legal authority to stop payment until the project complies with Proposition 1A.

I hope, I won’t have to do this, and the Legislature does its job and kills this project. This shouldn’t be a partisan issue. We made a promise to taxpayers to be good stewards of their trust and money. Let’s restore that trust and do the right thing, and let’s put an end to this money pit.

Konstantinos Roditis is a candidate for California State Controller. You can learn more about his campaign at, and you can follow him on Twitter & Facebook.

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Michigan’s Tenth Amendment defiance of Trump and the GOP



In the name of “fixing” the illegal immigration problem and improving national security, Trump and the GOP have advanced a host of legislative initiatives that even Barack Obama would love.

One such initiative was the re-authorization of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) back in January. Forced through Congress by Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, FISA 702 was renewed for six years, despite concerns that, according to Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), it allows the government to conduct warrantless electronic searches in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Thought originally originated during the Cold War, FISA has grown since 9/11 into a weapon used by agencies such as the NSA to spy on anyone, anytime, anywhere. Even though these abuses were common knowledge—leading to the passage of the USA Freedom Act to rein in the government’s abuse of power—big government progressives within the GOP joined hands to let the feds keep their unconstitutional power.

Though Amash’s efforts to protect our Constitutional rights failed in Congress, local leaders in his home state recently exercised their Tenth Amendment rights by passing a law telling Trump and the GOP where they can get off when it comes to FISA 702.

This past Monday, Governor Rick Snyder signed a bill prohibiting the state from providing “material support or resources to a federal agency to enable it to collect, or to facilitate in the collection for use of person’s electronic data” unless one of five conditions are met:

(a) The person has given informed consent.
(b) The action is pursuant to a warrant that is based upon probable cause and particularly describes the person, place, or thing to be searched or seized.
(c) The action is in accordance with a legally recognized exception to warrant requirements.
(d) The action will not infringe on any reasonable expectation of privacy the person may have.
(e) This state or a political subdivision of this state collected the electronic data or metadata legally.

State Rep. Martin Howrylak (R), the sponsor of HB4430 which passed 108-1 in the House and 37-0 in the Senate, explained the bill:

“This reform safeguards the fundamental rights of all Michigan residents, who are guaranteed protection of their property and privacy rights by the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution. Michigan will not assist the federal government with any data collection unless it is consistent with the Constitution.”

FISA 702 empowers a secret court to rubber-stamp general warrants that authorize spying on broad swaths of Americans without probable cause. Typically, this authorization lets the government spy indiscriminately on all landlines, mobile devices, and desktop computers in a given area.

Obviously, Trump and the GOP can’t be trusted to protect and defend the Constitution. It’s up to the states to exercise their Tenth Amendment rights to do what Trump and the GOP are unwilling to do.

Originally posted on The Strident Conservative.

David Leach is the owner of The Strident Conservative. His daily radio commentary is nationally syndicated with Salem Radio Network and can be heard on stations across America.

Follow the Strident Conservative on Twitter and Facebook. Subscribe to receive podcasts of radio commentaries: iTunes | Stitcher | Tune In | RSS

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