Monday, April 30, 2007

Bill Moyers: "Buying the War"

On Friday, PBS aired "Buying the War" hosted by Bill Moyers. I missed it, but have seen clips online.

Here are 2 clips from the show...

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Watching the Iowa Legislature Work Overtime

The Iowa Legislature worked overtime on Saturday to finish the session. Their final day with pay was on Friday, but since their work was not done they came on Saturday to finish things up. Technically, the House and Senate worked until Sunday, with the Senate adjourning at 12:07 am and the House adjourning at 12:39 am.

My wife was in Des Moines on Saturday for a conference. I went along and spent the day hanging around Des Moines. In the morning, I stopped by the State Capitol and watched the Senate in action. Things were pretty calm as they discussed the Health and Human Services appropriations bill (HF 911). Most of the discussion concerned tattoo and body piercing parlors being inspected by the Department of Health. This was not included in the final bill, which passed 34 - 16.

I then met my wife for lunch and then found a coffee shop to sit in and grade some tests for school. When I got that finished, I went back to the State Capitol to hear the House debate on a Standings Appropriations bill (SF 601). Rep. Oldson (D-Polk) began by asking Representives to withdraw ammendments to this bill that are policy based and don't have anything to do with appopriations. This led one Republican Representives to comment that there is so much pork on this bill that he could hear it squeel when it came in.

A large majority of the ammendments were withdrawn, but a couple came to a vote. One (H 2062) was from Rep. Grassley (R-Butler) asked that money be taken away from Terrace Hill security and landscaping to create an immigration task force. This drew a response from Rep. Oldson that immigration is a national issue and not much can be done at a state level. The ammendment was defeated 39-50.

The hottest debate was on an ammendment by Rep. Griener (R-Washington) about wild boars and feral swine. I never realized this was such a big issue, but then again I don't live on a farm. The bill would outlaw two breeds of boars and outlaw feral swine. The reasoning is that they spread disease, harm the environment, and damage ecosystems. I guess there was a compromise bill that was thrown out and this disapointed some Representives. Discussion on this ammendment lasted over an hour. Rep. Horbach (R - Tama) called this bill a win for the big guys and that it would put some little guys out of business. Horbach was very passionate on the issue. Another Representive said that this should be a separate bill because it is a policy issue and it should wait until next year's session. At the beginning of the discussion, I knew very little about the issue. After hearing the debate, I probably would have voted no. The ammendment ended up passing 50-42. The overall appropriations bill passed in the House 52-39 and later in the Senate 30-19.

This was my first time watching the Iowa Legislature in session. It was interesting to see them work, debate, get some things accomplished, and not accomplishing some others. The legislators were more frantic to get things done as the day went on. The mood in the Senate was pretty calm, while that evening in the House things were a little more heated.

Here are wrap ups of the Legislative session...
Popular Progressive
Register 1
Register 2

I will post my review of the session later in the week.

Here is a story from the Register on the wild boars being banned.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

State-Based Health Care Reform Act Introduced

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) have introduced legislation in the Senate that would create a pilot program in several states to reduce health care costs and cover more people that currently do not have insurance. The legislation is called the State-Based Health Care Reform Act.

States involved in the program would have to meet minimum baseline requirements, but would be able to use tools such as health savings accounts, single payer systems, expansions of current programs or new efforts to cover the uninsured. Those approved to take part in the program would have to provide some matching funds, provide some limited financial protections for low-income individuals, meet a baseline of coverage and expand coverage within a five-year period. The states are also expected to lower administrative costs and improve the efficiency of health care spending.
Feingold adds...
With an American-style approach to reform, that gives flexibility to the states and fuels innovation, real health care reform is within reach. I support guaranteed health care coverage for all Americans and this bill moves us toward that goal.
This is a creative solution that eliminates the bickering about big government and aims to provide real solutions to the probelm of 46 million uninsured Americans. It also focuses on the best aspects of federalism - the ability of states to be idea factories and breeding grounds of ingenuity- so that sucessful models can be replicated in other states.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Answering Questions on Abortion

I am looking for a candidate to come out and take strong stands on the issue they believe in (even if those stands aren't exactly what I believe in). I don't want to have to guess what they stand for after I hear them talk.

There was one example during last night's debate. One of the questions was about the Supreme Court's recent decision about partial birth abortion. All of the candidates gave the basic liberal answer that danced around the issue. Some of their points might be true, it isn't what voters want to hear.

What they should have said about supporting a woman's right to choose is that no one supports abortion, no matter what kind abortion it is. However, instead of outlawing all abortions and forcing women in desperate situations to seek refuge in a back alley, we should be doing all we can possibly imagine to prevent the need for abortions. This includes providing scientifically based sexual education, make contraception more available, helping people out of poverty, and ensuring people receive prenatal care.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Thoughts on the South Carolina Presidential Debate

I saw most of the South Carolina debate tonight. However, I just had gotten home, was eating dinner, and cleaning up while it was on. Here is my feelings on how the debate went:

I was impressed with the questions that were asked by Brian Williams. These weren't at all softball questions. With 8 candidates however, it was hard for them to get very in depth on the answers during the 90 minute debate. The yes/no, raise your hand, and 1 sentence answers were dumb. Just ask the question, give them a time limit, and let the candidates go.

As for how the candidates performed, I think Biden did very well. He came across as knowledgable and personable. Gravel made some good points. At least he had some fire, though he will probably be known as the crazy old guy from now own. He and Kucinich probably had too much time. Obama's charisma showed on the debate stage and it was interesting to see Kucinich and Gravel go after him about being anti-war. Edwards and Clinton all did well enough and didn't hurt themselves at all.

I was disapointed with Richardson. He hogged all the time and every answer had at least 3 or 4 parts before they cut him off. Note to Richardson: we aren't looking for 12 point plans, we are looking for someone to lead based on principles. We can get to the details later on.

Was Dodd even there?

Here are my rankings of their performance during the debate...
1. Joe Biden
2. Barack Obama
3. John Edwards
4. Hillary Clinton
5. Mike Gravel
6. Dennis Kucinich
7. Chris Dodd
8. Bill Richardson

Will Culver Veto Paper Trails?

The Iowa Senate has passed a bill that will rid Iowa's elections of paperless voting machines. The Senate bill requires a verifiable paper trail in Iowa's elections. Protecting our elections is key to a strong democracy.

However, the word is that Gov. Culver might veto the bill through a line item veto.

Please contact Gov. Culver and tell him you support the bill.

For more information on this bill, please visit Iowans for Voter Integrity.

Culver might veto the bill because of a question about funding, which would create an unfunded mandate.

Edwards Make Strong Statements Against Free Trade and Gitmo

John Edwards made two strong statements while campaigning over the weekend that helped separate him from other Democrats.

Edwards called for the repeal of NAFTA at a campaign stop in Indianola, where he said...

"We need to change the labor laws in this country. It's become clear the labor laws have become stranded in the favor of employers, and all we want is fairness for employees, not an advantage for workers over their employers," Edwards said to roughly 200 people filling the back deck at the home of Ray and Joanne Walton.

Edwards, who asserted himself as a strong union supporter, said repealing the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, and strengthening negotiation rights for employees on strike will benefit American workers.
It is a about time a Democrat takes a strong stands against so-called free trade that outsources jobs overseas. Republicans Duncan Hunter and Tom Tancredo have recently come out strongly against free trade agreements. Meanwhile Democrats have seemed to tip-toe around the issue saying we need to stronger labor and environmental standards, but they have stopped at saying they would repeal the free trade agreements. Edwards is the first to do so.

Edwards also called for the closure of Gitanomo prison at a speech in Michigan. Edwards said...
When the crisis comes, the world has to rally around us. But for that to happen, the world must see as a good place, with trustful leadership. When I'm the president, one of the first things I'll do is to close Gitmo.
Edwards is the first Democratic candidate to take strong stands against these issues. This fits right in with his campaign theme. Edwards is taking principled stands and laying out what he will do as president, while other Democrats are persuing trianglation and keeping an eye on the latest polls.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Civil Rights Bill to be Voted on Today

From John Deeth...

Things are looking good for a vote today (Weds 4/25). All of the contacts we've been making have really been helpful.

I'm reminded of all the people that have worked for this day for over 20 years. Many of the people who have worked for this issue are no longer with us, but I bet they will be with us in spirit tomorrow. I hope you might find a moment to remember the civil rights activists that came before us and to those that have dedicated decades to this issue.

The victory is not guaranteed and there are some amendments that are problematic, so if you have a story of discrimination to tell or some positive comments to make, please continue to keep making those calls and sending emails. You never know what story might make someone change their mind and vote for civil rights protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual, AND transgendered people.

Dig through your address book and contacts looking for anyone from these counties asking them to help:

Polk, Winneshiek, Scott, Kossuth, Benton, Chickasaw, Union, Cerro Gordo, Pottawattamie, Black Hawk

Write these Democrats telling stories of discrimination, fears, hopes and dreams of a better state:,,,,,,,,,

Write these Republicans doing the same:,,, ,,,,,

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

VOICE Legislation Still Has a Chance

It is looking like the VOICE legislation that would bring campaign finance reform to Iowa is not totally dead yet. The situation might be similar to this quote from Dumb and Dumber...

Mary: I'd say more like one out of a million.
Lloyd: So you're telling me there's a chance.
Yes, there's still a chance. From Bleeding Heartland...
The legislative session in Iowa is winding down. The General Assembly is scheduled to recess this Friday and the House leadership is trying to stall passage of the Voter Owned Iowa Clean Elections (VOICE) Act that would bring full public financing to the state's elections. The bill is currently sitting in the House Appropriations Committee. We have the votes to bring the legislation to the floor, but we need your help.

Please call the following representatives and tell them to allow the VOICE Act, HF 805, to go to the floor.

Speaker of the House Patrick Murphy
(515) 281-3221
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy
(515) 281-3221
Rep. Jo Oldson, House Appropriations Committee Chair
(515) 281-3221

The VOICE Act would make elections in your state about voters instead of big campaign donors. House leadership would prefer to see this bill just die in committee, but we can't let that happen. The legislation deserves a fair debate on the floor of the House.

We need your help today. Please take a few minutes to call the following legislators and tell them to support HF 805, the VOICE Act:

Speaker of the House Patrick Murphy
(515) 281-3221
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy
(515) 281-3221
Rep. Jo Oldson, House Appropriations Committee Chair
(515) 281-3221

With so much special interest money flowing into the elections in 2006, these legislators are feeling pressure to bow to their big donors instead of the interests of all voters. Put on a little pressure of your own with a few calls. Thanks for all you do.

Jeannette Galanis
National Field Director
Here are the email addresses of the Legislators mentioned...
As I wrote a few weeks ago...
This bill affects all other bills that are being debated because the VOICE legislation takes the big money out of politics and creates a level playing field.
But Tom Vilsack said it best at the DFA training in Cedar Rapids last month...
The legislation would give candidates a chance to actually go around and talk to the voters and hear what is their minds. It is the only way to get a system where the people's business is taken care of and not those of the special interests...The party that is in power today should really be for this.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Being the Best Joe Biden He Can Be

It seems that Joe Biden is being the best Joe Biden he can be at the Polk Co. Spring Dinner on Friday.

Here's the details from iPol...

Joe Biden challenged his fellow candidates, and Democrats generally, to stop being tentative, stop beating around the bush. The American people, Biden went on, want leadership and are not afraid of the challenges confronting the country. The American people have never let this country down, Biden exclaimed, and “I am sick of Democrats being cowards.” Biden appealed to the audience for support as a candidate “who you know where they stand” on issues. In the best line delivered by any speaker on the night, Joe Biden concluded by saying, “It ain’t complicated, folks. It just takes courage. Join me to make hope and history rhyme.” The press was all over him as he left the rostrum, and he worked the hall for another 15 minutes after the speech.

This was not the Joe Biden you read about in the mainstream media, the long-winded, academic, bloodless Joe Biden. That characterization may have been true in the past, but tonight I saw a different candidate, different even from when I met him last month, one who, indeed, is not running just for the exercise. Judging from his speech at this gathering, Joe Biden has stopped playing safe in his campaign, stopped parsing his words, and has started speaking from the heart. It was an extraordinary thing to witness, and if continued, may just be the approach that shakes up his prospects and get him out of single digits.
Now, I am not a huge fan of Joe Biden, but I liked what I read about him. I am right with Biden when he said he is sick of Democrats being cowards.

Over the weekend, I saw him on CSPAN, speaking at a house party in New Hampshire. Biden does know what he is talking about when it comes to foreign policy matters and Iraq. I hope Biden's foreign policy ideas get debated in this campaign because they have a lot of merit.

Here's is what I wrote back in March...
Biden is knowledgable on foregin affairs and has a plan on exiting Iraq, rebuilding the country, and stablizing the region. When Biden talks about Iraq, people should listen. I am glad that he is speaking out and leading on the issue.

If I agreed with Biden on other issues, he would be near the top of my list for President.

Visit iPol for writeups about John Edwards and Bill Richardson.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Tancredo Isn't As Wacky As I Thought

Last weekend I attended a campaign event in town held by Republican Tom Tancredo. This was my first Republican event I attended, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I went having a couple questions that I hoped would be answered (mainly about immigration) and hoping that Tancredo would give some crazy far right comments.

Tancredo began by telling the story of him serving in the Department of Education under Reagan and Bush in the 1980's. He said that he got the call and he was honored to serve under Reagan, but had to decline because he doesn't believe there even should be a Department of Education, so how could he work there. Tancredo's idea was to shut the Department of Education down. The Reagan administration responded by saying that is exactly what we want you to do.

The rest of Tancredo's speech was about immigration, immigration, and immigration. If he was asked about health care, he would tie the answer to immigration. If he was asked about education, he would somehow fit immigration in there. If he was asked about trade, he would fit immigration in there. He briefly mentioned that he was against abortion while touting his Conservative background and shockingly he did not even mention Iraq once.

Tancredo began discussing immigration by framing it as a security issue. He wants to first tighten security on the southern border and then the northern border. He said that we need to know who is coming in, for what reasons, and how long they are staying. Then he said we are basically importing a servant class into our nation. The ones who benefit are the employers because the cheap labor is only cheap for them. It is everyone else who must pay for it. Tancredo disagrees with people who say they can't find people to do work. He said what they really mean is they can't hire people to work for the price they are willing to pay. If you want to do something for low wage workers, then secure the borders. Tancredo laid out a simple solution that is just words long... enforce the laws.

I basically agree with every one of those points that Tancredo said about immigration. However, I felt Tancredo was emphasizing the wrong points in his speech. Here are some of the things that I didn't agree with Tancredo when it comes to immigration.

Tancredo said he would outlaw bilingual education. I worked in a bilingual school that taught everyone English and Spanish. It was amazing to see English speaking students become bilingual by the time they were in 3rd and 4th grades. It was a tremendous opportunity for these students. It helped the Spanish speaking students because to learn a new language it is important to have the basics of reading down in your native language. By learning to read and speak Spanish correctly, these students are able to learn English quicker and better.

Tancredo had a lot of stories about immigrants who receive all of the health care they need. I can't argue that a large number of immigrants do not have health insurance and receive some sort of health care. However, the quality of that care is not as good as the health care people with insurance have. Also, it is morally wrong to deny health care or education for that matter to people based on the fact their skin is a different color, they speak a different language, and they come (or their parents come) from a different country.

He stressed not redefining amnesty. He said all of the candidates are basically trying to redefine amnesty by inserting a path towards citizenship. If you don't give a path towards citizenship, then what do you do with the 12-20 million illegal immigrants in the nation? This was exactly the first question asked by the audience. Tancredo's answer was why not. He said to not let candidates tell you that it can't be done because if you believe it is the right thing to do and have the will to do it then it can be done. I agree that technically we could round up 12-20 million people. However, I only see 3 ways in accomplishing that and none of them are realistic at all. First, we could use every single law enforcement officer in the nation. Take them away from the police force, the mall security, FBI, etc and have them go looking for illegal immigrants. Second, we could bring all of our national guard out of Iraq and other countries overseas and have them round up all of the illegal immigrants. Finally, we could declare marshal law and set a curfew. Anyone out past a curfew would get tossed in a van and dumped on the other side of the border. Technically, all of these would work, but there would be a huge price to pay economically and eroding away with our civil liberties.

At the end of the speech, Tancredo did say that jobs are the magnet bringing immigrants here. If you crack down on employers and the immigrants wouldn't be able to find a job, they would go back home on their own. This is an example of how he should answer the question. This type of statement should be first point he makes, instead of talking about having the will to round up 12-20 million people.

Tancredo strongly made the point that we can't have a society based on diversity. He stressed that we need something to hold our society together. The things that hold our nation together is our border, our language, and our culture. I totally disagree with this. We are a nation of immigrants, dating back to the Pilgrims. It is like Tancredo has never read any history of the United States prior to the 1950's. The thing that holds our nation together is our freedoms. It doesn't matter what language you speak, you have the freedom of speech. It doesn't matter what culture you have, you have the freedom to practice your religion however you wish. It is our freedoms that make our country great. Trying to solve the issue of immigration and national security by taking freedoms away is not the answer.

Tancredo comes across as being mean and heartless because he says things that sound like he is attacking the immigrant and referring to them as something other than a human being. If he focused on the job markets, employers, and had an ounce of compassion when speaking about immigrants, Tancredo would come off much better.

Tancredo also spoke about No Child Left Behind and free trade agreements. I had a lot in common with him on both of these issues. Tancredo voted against NCLB because he doesn't believe the Federal Government has any right to be involved in local education. He came out strongly against free trade agreements because there is no reason you have to sacrifice sovereignty for trade. Tancredo voted against NAFTA and CAFTA and said they are part 2 of a 3 step process of making North America into a North American Union. Now my reasons for opposing NCLB and free trade a slightly different, I was pleased that Tancredo has taken such strong stands against them.

I was also surprised at how much he bashed Bush in his speech. He had comments against Bush at least 3 times. One, he jokingly said that he doesn't get invited to the White House much and that is just fine with him. The audience laughed and didn't seem to mind the Bush bashing.

After hearing Tancredo speak, I was surprised at how much I actually agreed with him on immigration. However, I am not sure how much Tancredo would be willing to compromise on the things I did disagree with him on. He seemed pretty much set in his ways. When I left, I had gotten my couple questions answered at the event. However, I left with a quite a few more questions about topics that were brought up.

Easy Ways to Save Energy and Protect our Environment

I have been pleasently surprised on the amount of coverage Global Climate Change and energy effieciency has recieved this past week in honor of Earth Day.

Here is a list of five easy things you can do to save energy, money, and protect the environment.

  • Use Compact Flourescents instead of regular light bulbs - They last longer, use less energy, and save you money on your electric bill. Replace 3 bulbs and save $60 a year.
  • Turn your thermostat down 2 degrees in the winter - It will save you almost $100 a year. No one will be able to feel the difference and if they do, just put on a sweatshirt.
  • Turn off the water while your brushing your teeth
  • Buy local food - It is better for our air quality and produces less pollution, the food tastes better and is fresher, and it helps local economies. Here's some advice from the Eat Local Challenge...
If not LOCALLY PRODUCED, then Organic.
If not ORGANIC, then Family farm.
If not FAMILY FARM, then Local business.
If not a LOCAL BUSINESS, then Fair Trade.
If all else fails, at least don’t eat at McDonald’s!
  • Insulate your hot water heater -It will save your $40 a year.

Unofficial Marshall County Bean Poll

The Marshall County Democratic Party had a table set up at the local mall yesterday to register people to vote. We were successful in a gettting a few people to register.

We also held an unofficial bean poll. Each candidate had a jar and people were asked to put a bean in the jar of the candidate they are supporting. Here are the results...

Obama 39
Edwards 33
Clinton 20
Richardson 8
Kucinich 3
Dodd 1
Gravel 1
Biden 0

Gore Assembling Campaign Team

Political Wire is reporting that Al Gore is secretly assembling a campaign team for a possible run for President.

Aware that he may step into the wide open race for the White House, former strategists are sounding out a shadow team that could run his campaign at short notice. In approaching former campaign staff, including political strategists and communications officials, they are making clear they are not acting on formal instructions from Mr. Gore, 59, but have not been asked to stop.
I will believe the hype when Gore gives a speech in the state. Gore isn't running until he comes to Iowa.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

I Don't Recall: Part 2

I finally remembered what I was going to write about this morning.

I Don't Recall

I have to apologize today. I was going to write this nice, long blog post, but I just don't recall what I was going to write about. See last night, I sat down and watched Alberto Gonzalez testify in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee being replayed on CSPAN. Now, I have no recollection of the topic of the so-called blog post. I found a note that says Sat. morning - write great blog post, but I do not recall any information whatsoever about writing a blog post this morning. It also seems that some emails have mysteriously disappeared, but again, I have no recollection of how that could happen either. Hopefully, the information about the blog post comes back to me and I can post later today.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Permanent Bases Project

Last month after Hillary Clinton mentioned in an interview that she supported a continued military mission in Iraq even after troops are redeployed out of Iraq.

This brought up the questions of the United States having permanent military bases in Iraq. I have heard the United States is building 14 permanent military bases in Iraq. 14 bases in a country the size of California.

Liberal Oasis wrote last month about starting a Permanent Bases Project where people would ask the presidential candidates if they support having permanent military bases in Iraq. Liberal Oasis wrote...

Having troops in the region to counter actual terrorism operations is legit. Having troops there permanently to project illegitimate influence and undermine the sovereignty of others is not.

What's Sen. Clinton's agenda? On one hand, she has not flatly rejected permanent bases in Iraq. On the other, she has flatly supported robust diplomatic engagement in Iran and not belligerent regime change.

Is that good enough? Maybe.

If you're sincere about diplomatic efforts, having troops nearby could be a useful (though not necessary) bargaining chip.

But if those troops are clearly staying permanently, that's a signal that you're not sincere, and diplomacy will be undermined.

There are a bunch of candidates visiting Iowa this week. If you get a chance to see one of them and ask a question, consider askng them if they support having permanent bases in Iraq and how many troops would be stationed there.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Bomb Iran? McCain Thinks it is a Joking Matter

McCain responds to a question about bombing Iran by joking about the Beach Boy song Barbara Ann by singing "Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, Iran."

McCain isn't do himself any favors. If he isn't off pandering to the religous right then he is trying to sound more macho when it comes to war. All McCain is doing is digging himself into a deeper hole. Rudy has surpassed him in the polls. His fundraising numbers were lower than expected, and he spent a lot of money already. Should we be taking bets to see if McCain even makes it to the Iowa Caucuses?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Lakoff Frames Progressive Taxation

George Lakoff wrote on Common Dreams yesterday about framing the issue of progresive taxation. Lakoff's main point is that the taxes provide protection and empowerment.

America’s government has at least two fundamental functions, protection and empowerment. Protection includes the police, firefighters, emergency services, public health, the military, and so on. Empowerment includes the infrastructure needed for business and everyday life: roads, communications systems, water supplies, public education, the banking system for loans and economic stability, the SEC for the stock market, the courts for enforcing contracts, air traffic control, support for basic science, our national parks and public buildings, and more. We are usually aware of protection. But the empowerment infrastructure, provided by taxes, is usually taken for granted, hidden, or ignored. Yet it is absolutely crucial, a fundamental truth about America and why America provides opportunity.
It should be the responsibility of the wealthy to invest in the empowerment infrastructure because it is what enables them to create their wealth. It seems they should gladly do so because they benefit the most from this infrastructure.

Ordinary people just drive on the highways; corporations send fleets of trucks. Ordinary people may get a bank loan for their mortgage; corporations borrow money to buy whole companies. Ordinary people rarely use the courts; most of the courts are used for corporate law and contract disputes. Corporations and their investors - those who have accumulated enough money beyond basic needs so they can invest - make much more use, compound use, of the empowering infrastructure provided by everybody’s tax money.

The wealthy have made greater use of the common good-they have been empowered by it in creating their wealth-and thus they have a greater moral obligation to sustain it. They are merely paying their debt to society in arrears and investing in future empowerment.

This is the fundamental truth that motivates progressive taxation.

It is a truth that undercuts conservative arguments about taxation. Taxes provide and maintain the protecting and empowering infrastructure that makes our income possible.

Lakoff concludes...

But this situation is threatened by conservative tax policy. Through unfair cuts in taxes paid by the wealthy, through payment for the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and through borrowing abroad to pay for the tax cuts and Iraq, the common wealth is being drained and the infrastructure allowed to fall apart. We need to return to a fair tax policy that recognizes financial responsibility incurred by the compound use of America’s empowering infrastructure.

And if you need to be reminded about conservative tax policy take a look at my post earlier in the day.

Real Estate Going Green

The Des Moines Register has an article today about how real estate in the Des Moines is going green. Check it out, it is a pretty interesting read...

Interest in a greener lifestyle has grown among homeowners in recent years, which some real estate experts attribute to rising energy costs and celebrities' awareness efforts.

Buyers should expect to pay 5 percent to 8 percent more for a home with green improvements, Webster said, but energy savings could be $100 or more a month, depending on the enhancements.

A national homeowners survey by Wells Fargo & Co. last year showed that, given $50,000 for home improvements, more respondents (24 percent) said they would make environmentally friendly additions before anything else, including luxury kitchen remodels, entertainment rooms or landscaping. Insulation, energy-efficient appliances, double-paned windows and even solar panels topped the list.

"I do think the tide is turning," said Lynnae Hentzen, executive director of the Center on Sustainable Communities, a Des Moines-based nonprofit group that educates builders and homeowners on green building. "Homeowners are starting to become more aware and that's key. Because if you understand it and come at it from all directions, anybody can find value in green building."

A Look at Corporate Tax Rates on Tax Day

A lot of Republicans claim that corporate tax rates are too high, so on the day taxes are due, here is a look at the corporate tax rates. I found this from a post by David Sirota awhile back...

Yes, it is true, the official corporate tax rate in America is 35 percent. It is also true, however, that because of lax enforcement, loopholes and evasion, most corporations never come close to paying that rate. As the Government Accountability Office reported in 2004, 94 percent of corporations pay less than 5 percent of their income in taxes, and corporate tax payments are at their second lowest level in 60 years – lower than in every other industrialized country other than Iceland.

Maybe we should look into the tax breaks and tax loopholes in the system first.

Monday, April 16, 2007

How to Frame the Iraq Appropriations Bill

Sen. Carl Levin gets an F for these remarks on ABC's This Week (here's Matt Stoller's take from MyDD and the Young Turks reaction from Air America) ...

"We're not going to vote to cut funding, period," Levin said. "But what we should do, and we're going to do, is continue to press this president to put some pressure on the Iraqi leaders to reach a political settlement."
Levin is correct in saying that Democrats support the troops and wouldn't cut the funding. However, Levin is using the Republican frame to make his point. By insisting that Democrats won't cut the funding it instantly makes people think that the Democrats will cut the funding. The reality is Democrats passed a bill that funded our troops, a bill that Bush is going to veto. Bush is the one that is against funding our troops.

Sen. Jim Webb understands this and earns an A+. Here is how Webb reframed the issue...

"President Bush has threatened to veto the Iraq War supplemental bill, which is favored by a majority of Americans and a majority in Congress. This is just another example of the one-dimensional approach of this administration with respect to the resolution of this ill-conceived war.

"In the Constitution, the Congress appropriates funds and writes the checks. We're sending the President a bill that provides $100 billion for our troops to continue their mission in Iraq. Nobody is cutting the money from the troops unless the President vetoes the bill Congress sends him."

VOICE Rally at Statehouse on Wednesday

I just got home from work and in the mailbox is something from Iowa CCI about a rally in support for the VOICE legislation on Wednesday. Here's the info...

On Wednesday, April 18th, at 12:00 p.m., Iowans from across the state will be rallying at the capitol for Voter Owned Elections. We need to let the General Assembly know that it's time to make elections about voters and volunteers and not dollars and campaign donors.

Following the rally, we'll be lobbying members of the General Assembly.
You can sign up here. is getting involved in supporting the VOICE legislation. From an email from MoveOn...

The Iowa General Assembly is debating a bill to adopt Clean Elections—public financing for candidates in legislative and statewide races. Clean Elections is a proven policy working in states like Connecticut, Maine, and Arizona where campaigns are now contests of ideas, not fundraising ability.1

There's less than two weeks left to pass Clean Elections before this year's session ends. Today is your chance to put this over the top.

Please call on your state legislators to support the Voter Owned Iowa Clean Elections (VOICE) Act—HF 805/AF 553.

Representative David Jacoby
Phone: 515-281-3221
This bill affects all other bills that are being debated because the VOICE legislation takes the big money out of politics and creates a level playing field. Please consider attending this rally if you are able to. I would take a personal day off from work, but we are taking a huge test this week and can't miss it. If you can't make it to the rally be call Rep. Dave Jacoby, who is in charge of passing the bill out of committee, and your Representive and tell them you support the VOICE legislation.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Rising Cost of College Shutting Doors

Rekha Basu of the Des Moines Register has a column today called College Costs Shutting Doors about the issue of rising college costs and how affects the common Iowan.

Basu writes about the income gap of those that can afford attending college is growing...

The fact that it's gotten harder than ever to pay for college has caused a disturbing change in the demographics of incoming college students. Today's are about 60 percent richer in household income than the population average, according to a new study. That means the gap between those who can and can't afford college is growing. And it means that income inequality is bound to intensify since college graduates earn on average 60 percent more than those without a degree.
Basu discusses our Debt for Diploma system and the decline in financial aid that hurts middle class families...
At the same time, college aid has fallen. The number of grants as a proportion of student aid has declined each year since 2001, with states also allocating less money to higher education since then.

That leaves students taking on major debt. Grinnell students typically leave with $16,744 in loans to pay back; it's nearly double that much at Iowa State University.

Federal policy changes have also upset the balance, benefiting upper-income families at the expense of lower-income ones; 43 percent of the education tax credits and about 70 percent of the benefits of the federal tuition tax deduction go to taxpayers with incomes of $50,000 or more.
So basically it comes down to...
Rising college tuition + less financial aid = more students that graduate with a ton of student loan debt.
More student loan debt just gives students another reason to leave Iowa after graduating. These students leave Iowa for higher paying jobs elsewhere.

Rising college tuition + less financial aid = fewer students being able to afford to attend college.
This is what Tamara Draut, author of Strapped: Why America's 20- and 30- Somethings Can't Get Ahead, calls downsizing your dreams. Students who get decent grades in high school, but aren't good enough for scholarships, are forced to forgoe getting a 4 year degree. These students then might attend a community college for 2 year degrees or not go to college at all because they are priced out of the system.

Basu concludes...
As a nation, we're in grave danger of intensifying the gap between the wealthy and those just making it, when the one reliable means to equality - a higher education - sits so high out of reach.

The Courage of Our Convictions

I went to the public library a couple weeks ago to check out a specific book, but they didn't have it in. Not wanting to go home empty handed, I browsed the shelves and found the latest book by former Sen. Gary Hart called The Courage of our Convictions.

The Courage of our Convictions is a call to Democrats to return to their core principles and values to solve the issues we face today. Though, I didn't have enough to time to finish the entire book (I have a bad habit of starting books and not finishing them), I read part one and the books is going on my reading list for this summer.

Hart begins by discussing the the values and principles the Democratic party has traditional held. Hart writes...

...from 1932 to 1968, the Democratic Party had one big idea, and it was: The national government has a central and positive role to play in bettering the lives of all Americans.
Hart then discussess why the move towards Centrism in th 1990's and adandoning the political philosophy of FDR, Truman, Kennedy, and Johnson has led Americans believe that Democrats are timid and lack the courage to lead the country. Hart writes...
Some mystery rhetoric about the "vital center" may have been sufficient to see Bill Clinton through the interim between the Cold War and the war on terrorism, but it did not leave in its wake a set of principles upon which to base a political party in a new century... Triangulation and centrism are tactical positioning maneuvers but are not a basis for governing.
This is a theme that I have written about many times on this blog. Hart concludes the first section of the book by saying...
The Republican Party is and will remain the party of the individual and private interests. Democrats are obliged, therefore, to become once again the party of common good, of community, and of justice for all. To fail in this task is abandon our heritage and to become some ill-defined "centrist" party with no compass, no clear purpose, and little reason for existence.
Here's hoping the Democratic Party finds a nominee for President in 2008 that puts the common good first.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Presidential Campaigns: the New Show About Nothing (or Why You Have to Be Something to Win Iowa)

Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone has a new article posted that discusses the media circus and made for TV dramas that Presidential Campaigns have become. This is only going to be magnified with larger states like California, New Jersey, New York, and Florida moving up in the primary season.

Like Seinfeld, the presidential campaign is essentially a "show about nothing," a prolonged prime-time character-driven drama crafted around a series of fake conflicts that always get resolved by the end of the program, in this case November 2008. Marcia and Greg make driving-test bet in segment one; Marcia imagines instructor in underwear in middle segments; Marcia and Greg's bet ends in a tie, family loves each other again. In the old days the presidential show's writers tended to use actual political issues (Georgie and Hube argue about Vietnam!) as the starting points for their dramatic conflicts -- a natural artistic strategy, given that the subject matter was a real election in a giant country teeming with ugly social and economic problems -- but in the last few cycles the networks seem to have figured out that you can shoot even a whole season of a presidential race without including any of the boring political shit.

Instead, you can cover the whole race using the time-tested Aaron Spelling method of creating TV dramas: You pack a rich and magical dream-landscape with a group of easily-recognizable psychological archetypes and spend a dozen episodes or so letting them smash into each other in bikinis and sports cars (if the show is set in California) or spurs and hoop-dresses (if it's a Western).

The campaign is the same deal. Instead of making a Malibu beach soap out of a prude, a slut, a 98-pound weakling and a leading man, you do a political drama with a hothead (McCain), an Eddie Haskell (Romney), an underdog (Obama) and a wicked witch (Hillary), all doing turns manning tractors and cow-milking chairs on a digitally-enhanced farm set that looks so much like Iowa, you'd swear it was the real thing. (For the second straight season, incidentally, Dennis Kucinich will play the Harry Bently-Dwayne Schneider-Kramer "nutty neighbor" character, getting a wolf whistle and three seconds of pre-recorded "enthusiastic applause" every time he walks through the apartment door. I've been on Dennis to wear a handyman costume next year to make his character really fly.)

Taibbi, though he probably didn't have this as one of his goals, gives the exact reason why Iowa should be first in the nation. Candidates can't go through the motions when campaigning in Iowa and candidates can't by their way to victory by buying TV ads and stopping in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, and Davenport every couple of weeks. As I wrote last week, us Iowans are stubborn folks.
We expect to shake the candidate's hands (preferably in someone's living room or a coffee shop and not in a large arena) and aren't afriad to ask the tough questions. We will continue this ritual until we find a candidate worthwhile to support, even if it takes seeing each candidate six times.
To win Iowa, a candidate has to be about something, no matter how hard the media tries to portray the national race differently.

Iowans Need Their VOICE to be Heard

There was an opinion piece in the Des Moines Register yesterday by Barb Kalbach of Iowa CCI about the need to pass the VOICE act in the Iowa legislature.

Pass public financing for Iowa campaigns


In his leadership position, Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal raises exorbitant amounts of cash and doles it out to candidates as he sees fit.

According to the Institute on Money in State Politics, Gronstal raised more than $500,000 in the 2006 election cycle. More than 75 percent of the money raised for his committee during that period, $426,250, was contributed to the Iowa Democratic Party.

Gronstal's ability to raise and allocate campaign cash is how he retains his power and influence in the Senate. He raised more money than any Senate candidate in the 2006 cycle - and he wasn't up for re-election.

Now Gronstal and his colleagues are going to create a 527 committee, named for its designation in the IRS tax code. A 527 is created primarily to influence elections through the use of "issue advocacy" ads that avoid regulation by the Federal Election Commission. These groups raise practically unlimited amounts of money from individuals and corporations. Since a 527 is not required to report its source of funds to the FEC, the industries and interests giving money to these groups are seldom disclosed.

Gronstal told the Register that he doesn't approve of 527s, but said, "Even though I don't necessarily like the rules, I'll play by the rules as effectively as my competitors." The competitor he's referring to is Rep. Christopher Rants, the House Republican leader who has successfully used his Iowa Leadership Council to raise large amounts of money from the beer, tobacco and car-title loan industries, among others.

Our elections don't have to be this way - high-stakes shoot-outs between wealthy interests. A bill in the Legislature, modeled on the successful Clean Elections programs in seven states and two municipalities, puts the concerns of voters ahead of well-heeled special interests.

Called the Voter Owned Iowa Clean Elections Act, or VOICE, the bill is championed by Rep. Pam Jochum and Sen. Mike Connolly. VOICE would implement a system of public financing for legislative and statewide campaigns.

Modeled on successful systems in Maine, Arizona and North Carolina, the VOICE Act would provide public funds sufficient to run a competitive campaign to candidates who qualify by showing broad-based community support. That would require collecting a set number of $5 donations. Once qualified, VOICE candidates must agree to adhere to strict spending limits and forgo all private fundraising.

As of January 2007, more than 200 elected officials across the country hold office as a result of a Clean Elections system, including 84 percent of the Maine Legislature and nine of 11 statewide officials in Arizona. Gov. Janet Napolitano has used the system for both of her gubernatorial campaigns.

Clean Elections is also taking hold on the national stage. Last month, bipartisan legislation called the Fair Elections Now Act was introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sens. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and Arlen Specter, R-Pa. It would bring full public financing of elections to all congressional races.

Should the VOICE Act bring this opportunity to Iowa, Gronstal and others could spend their time focusing on the concerns and issues that matter to voters instead of dialing for dollars and courting big-money contributors to fill both their candidate and 527 campaign accounts.

BARB KALBACH is president of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Make Hip-Hop Not War in Cedar Falls on Saturday

Sounds like this will be an interesting event.

"Make Hip-Hop Not War"
National Tour stop
Cedar Falls Iowa
Saturday April 14th
4 to 8
at the Reverb,
204 1/2 Main Street
Featured Artists on the tour:

Papoose, Killer Mike, A Alikes, Akir, Hasan Salaam,Timz,
Son of Nun,Fam Famil,Bedouin,DJ Chela,Will B,Head-Roc,
La Paz,Myself,ReadNex Poetry Squad, local artist, and others…

Featured Speakers on the tour:

Elaine Johnson, mother of Army Spc. Darius Jennings, 22 years old, who was killed in Iraq on November 2, 2003 when the Chinook helicopter he was aboard was shot down by Iraqi insurgents
Carlos Arrendondo, father of Marine Lance Corporal Alexander Arrendondo, 20 years old, who was killed in An Najaf, Iraq during his second tour of duty in Operation Iraqi Freedom on August 25, 2004.
Cindy Sheehan, established Camp Casey in Crawford, Texas and mother of Spc. Casey Sheehan who was killed in Iraq.
Tina Richards, mother of Corporal Cloy Richards, United States Marine Corps, who has served two tours in Iraq.
Rosa Clemente, a national leader and activist in the Hip Hop community.
Jim Hightower, national radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and Iraq war critic.
Malia Lazu, a national leader and activist in the Hip Hop community.
Nicole Lee, Executive Director of TransAfrica Forum and a member of the Hip Hop generation.
Sunsara Taylor, representing the World Can't Wait
Steve Cobble, an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, who focuses on antiwar work and voting rights issues.
Phyllis Bennis, a writer, analyst and activist on Middle East and UN issues and a Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies.
Members of Iraq Veterans Against the War
Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr., President of the Hip Hop Caucus, as MC

Participating Members of Congress:
Congressman Raúl Grijalva
Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chair
Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey, Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chair
Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Out of Iraq Caucus Chair
Congressman Steve Cohen
Congressman John Lewis

Exact Speakers and Acts on Iowa leg of the tour TBA

Sponsored by: The Hip-Hop Caucus, Campus Antiwar Network, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Cedar Valley United for Peace & Justice, Iowans for Sensible Priorities, UNI Students for Social Justice.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Would Obama give the U.S. a Fresh Start in the World?

The world will breathe a sigh of relief when this administration is gone.
This was one of the most memorable lines from Barack Obama at last week's event in Marshalltown.

As an undecided Democratic caucus goer, the question is if Obama the best candidate to bring this sigh of relief?

Conservative Andrew Sullivan thinks so. Sullivan had this to say about Obama after he announced he was running back in February.
I don't think many Americans have fully absorbed yet what the Bush administration has done to America's soft power abroad, to the moral reputation of America, to the respect that many around the world once had for America's democratic institutions, even if they differed from U.S foreign policy. Bush's torture and detention policies, his cringe-inducing diplomacy, his proud lack of interest in other cultures and societies has deeply weakened this country's international clout. Electing a half-African president, with Hussein as a middle name, who attended school in a Muslim country: it's almost a p.r. agent's dream for America. It would instantly give this country a fresh start in the world after the disaster of the Bush-Cheney years.

Culver Issues His First Veto as Governor

Chet Culver has vetoed his first bill as Governor. Yesterday, Gov. Culver vetoed a bill that would have stripped Iowans the ability to appeal simple misdemeanors such as speeding and public intoxication through a process called "post-conviction relief."

From the Des Moines Register...

"I am convinced that if codified, Senate File 139 would erode and diminish one of our most cherished legal rights: the right to challenge the legal basis for incarcerating citizens," Culver wrote in his veto message.

The bill, which passed the House and Senate with no opposition, would prohibit defendants convicted of simple misdemeanors from filing for so-called "post-conviction relief." Essentially, that means that once defendants fail to convince a magistrate and then a district judge of their innocence, they would not be able to contest the convictions to the Iowa Supreme Court.

Some state officials, including the Iowa Attorney General's office, said post-conviction relief appeals are rarely filed in simple misdemeanors. Because most simple misdemeanors carry little or no jail time, the appeal process has little impact other than to clog the courts.

The bill did not prohibit defendants in more serious criminal cases from filing post-conviction relief petitions.

I can see both sides of this issue. Yes, it would be nice to cut down on the paper work in the court system and it seems a little silly for the Iowa Supreme Court to be hearing cases about speeding tickets. However, just because something requires a little more work doesn't mean you should change the law to get rid of it. Our Judicial system is one of the foundations of our society and it is good to see Gov. Culver has no interest in taking some of those rights away.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Iowa Republicans Favor a Withdrawl of U.S. Troops from Iraq

John Nichols writes an article that points out that in a recent poll Iowa Republicans are in favor of withdrawling U.S. troops from Iraq.

QUESTION: Do you favor a withdrawal of all United States military from Iraq within the next six months?ANSWER: Yes 52% No 39% Undecided 9%

No, those are not particularly shocking numbers.

We have known for a long time that Americans favor the rapid withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

What is interesting about these numbers is who they come from.

The Strategic Vision polling group asked 600 likely Iowa caucus goers the question in a survey conducted March 30-April 1, 2007.

To be more precise, the survey queried 600 likely Republican caucus goers.

Nichols concludes...
Nothing the Congress is proposing is anywhere near as radical as the position now taken by grassroots Republicans in Iowa.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Lobby Day on Wednesday: Support Clean Air and Water in Iowa

From my inbox...

Wednesday, April 11 – Come to Des Moines and Keep the Calls and E-mails Coming...

Rally at Capitol – Lobby Day!

Help Protect Clean Air and Water Bill (H.F . 873) and The Matrix Improvement Bill (S.F. 550)!
For the first time in years, Iowans have a chance to pass legislation that would protect the environment and property values with several new bills before the legislature.

Unfortunately, the CAFO lobby is fighting to derail the democratic rights of
Iowa's rural citizens and your help is needed to fight the outside influence of corporate cash.

Bring Your Neighbor - Invite a Friend:

Come to the Capitol in
Des Moines on Wednesday, April 11 and let your voice be heard! Without your support, these bills will die, it's important that your elected officials hear firsthand what their constituents want. Invite anyone you know who may be interested in protecting Iowa's air and water.

Arrive Where and When:
The event will take place in the Capitol Rotunda, 1st floor, from 12:00 pm to 3:00 pm. Plan to begin arriving at 10:00 am in the Capitol cafeteria to receive handouts discussing the bills and a quick tutorial on citizen lobbying. Look for individuals wearing NAME TAG STICKERS in support of H.F. 873 and S.F. 550.

Afternoon Events:
Many organizations will have displays and materials set up, and we may have a press conference and/or rally that afternoon in the rotunda. (Details to be Determined).

RSVPs are appreciated and can be email to:

What We Are Supporting:
House File 873 (Kuhn / Frevert Bill) The Clean Air and Clean Water Bill, offers additional protections to confinement neighbors and the environment.

H.F. 873 would:
1. Increase separation distances between new CAFOs and residences, churches, cities, lakes and tourism destinations.
2. Require all counties to use the Master Matrix to evaluate new CAFO applications.
3. Require manure to be applied farther away from waterways, homes, schools and churches, etc.

Senate File 550 (The Matrix Improvement Bill) – This bill will give a voice to elected county officials in the permitting process of new confinements.

S.F. 550 would:
1. Require all counties to adopt the Master Matrix.
2. Give all county board of supervisors the authority to approve or disapprove a construction permit for a new CAFO.
3. Require county board of supervisors to appoint five persons to a construction evaluation committee, including: a. soil and water commissioner, b. a real estate broker, c. a city resident, d. a livestock operator, e. a county environmental health office.
4. Allow a board of supervisors to accept the construction evaluation committee's recommendation.

Why We Support These Bills:
These bills will offer additional protection for
Iowa's rural citizens and keep Iowa's air and water clean. Farm Bureau and industry lobbyists are trying to scare farmers by making alarmist claims about how these common sense pieces of legislation would drive the livestock business out of Iowa. The opposite is true. Responsible legislation would allow for the responsible expansion of livestock in Iowa.

Updates on CAFOs and House File 873:
1. H.F. 873 is still under consideration in the Iowa House. More information about H.F. 873 is at

2. S.F. 550 is under consideration in the Iowa Senate also. More information about S.F. 550 is at

3. Last week, 10,000 gallons of manure were released into Chariton Creek in
SW Iowa from a factory farm. .

4 . Four Environmental Protection Commissioners had their last day on the commission on April 3. A Des Moines Register article titled " Replaced appointee blasts Culver" can be found at A blog covering this issue is at

5. Call or email your legislators or the Governor, even if you're already done so already… contact them again!


If you can't get through to the House or Senate, please leave a short message.

Contact GOVERNOR CULVER'S OFFICE (515) 281-5211

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Iowa Will be Even More Influential in 2008

Iowa is going to be even more influential in the 2008 nominating process despite larger states like California, New Jersey, New York, Florida, and Texas moving the dates of their primaries up to February 5th.

Here is a New York Times story, via Political Wire, about Iowa being even more important in 2008.

For all the tinkering with the 2008 primary schedule, for all the attempts by nearly 20 states to have a greater say in picking the nominee, an unusually early swarm of campaign visits here underscores which state — for now, at least — is one of the top priorities. A new route may exist on the road to the White House, but no candidates are daring to discount the familiar path of Iowa. In fact, the state has almost certainly become more influential.

In the last week or so alone, the field of Republican and Democratic hopefuls staged more than 50 public events across Iowa. They opened offices, welcomed hundreds of new staffers and made scores of calls to local political dignitaries, just letting them know they were in the neighborhood.
Candidates no longer are even considering skipping Iowa or New Hampshire.
Ordinarily, it might be worth the risk. But with California, Texas, New York and Illinois among the states looking to set their own primaries in early February, immediately after the first round, the luxury of gaining traction slowly and steadily between contests is gone.
Even though other states wanted more of a say in the nominating process, it is looking like we have an even more important task ahead of us. With a such a wide open field and so many candidates, it is our job to be stubborn Iowans. We expect to shake the candidate's hands (preferably in someone's living room or a coffee shop and not in a large arena) and aren't afriad to ask the tough questions. We will continue this ritual until we find a candidate worthwhile to support, even if it takes seeing each candidate six times. This process is the definition of people-powered politics and it is the way democracy is meant to be done.

When it is all said and done, Iowans will have picked a candidate, not based on what the news media says, or which candidate has the most money, or what endorsements they have, but because we have done our research. If the rest of the nation has a problem with the candidate that we pick in the Iowa Caucuses, it is important to remember that no one is forcing these other states to support the same candidate in their primaries.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Grassley to run again in 2010: Is a matchup against Vilsack looming?

Yesterday, on the taping of Iowa Press Republican Sen. Charles Grassley announced that he will run for reelection to the Senate in 2010. Grassley, who is 73, cited his senority and power that comes with it as the reasons why he would seek reelection.

From KCCI...

The 73-year-old Iowa Republican said he will seek a sixth term when he comes up for re-election in 2010. Grassley said with his seniority, he's worth more to his employer -- the people of Iowa -- than he was before.

He's the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee and plays a key role in budget decisions despite Democratic control of the Senate.

With a new farm bill in the works and lawmakers looking to tackle issues such as Medicare and Social Security, Grassley said his seniority can be crucial. Grassley has held elective office in Iowa continuously since 1956, serving in the Iowa Legislature and then moving to the U.S. House in 1974.
I am a little surprised Grassley is planning on running for reelection. I know someone who worked on his last campaign that said they didn't he would run again.

This week at our county Democratic Central Committee, we discussed Grassley running in 2010 and it was brought up that maybe Pat Grassley, a first term State Rep, might run for his dad's grandpa's seat. That would be an interesting move, but with a possible race against former Gov. Tom Vilsack, it probably isn't one that Republicans would want to make.

A Charles Grassley vs Tom Vilsack matchup would probably be one of the biggest Senate races in 2010.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Report from Obama Event in Marshalltown: Part 2

Here is part 1 of my report from the event.

Obama then opens up for some questions. I was looking forward to this part since he didn't have a question portion of the event in Ames. I didn't take notes on all of the questions, but here are the ones that I did.

The first question was from a person from Benton County who does not have health insurance. She asks for some specifics on how Obama will bring about universal health care. Obama says that we spend $2 trillion per year on health care, which is far more than other industrialized nation, and are outcomes are no better and a lot of times worse. He would work to cut out some of the inefficiencies in the system. He would change to electronic records which would save money and save lives. He would stress preventative health care such as giving every senior citizen flu shots, which would save money in hospitalizations, and tackling obesity and chronic diseases. These would all save money that would be able to be used to provide coverage to those that don't have it now. He ends by saying he doesn't have all the answers and is still putting together his health care. He is still researching and if he sees something that is good, he doesn't mind stealing it. This got laughter from the crowd.

There is question from a UAW member from the Maytag plant in Newton that is closing. She asks what Obama is going to do to keep manufacturing jobs here. Obama gave three things that he would do. First, he said we can't stop companies from deciding to relocate. However, we don't have to be providing incentives to them for moving overseas. We need to reward companies that do the right thing by providing incentives for companies that create jobs here. This is basically John Kerry's position from 2004. Second, Obama says we must invest in infrastructure. He says 80% of Korea has broadband, there is no reason we don't have broadband access in rural areas here. Finally, we need a Manhattan style project for renewable energy and green technology. This will create new technologies and industries. Then we need to retrain our workers for these industries. He mentions green building techniques, but fails to mention anything about conservation or raising CAFE standards as key steps in an energy policy. Overall, his answer on renewable energy was pretty good. Obama then says we are not as tough as we should be when trade deals are negotiated. He says we need to encourage trade, but make sure it benefits not just Wall Street, but the average American also.

The next question was from a high school teacher, who asks about No Child Left Behind. Obama says that it shouldn't be up to only teachers when it comes to education. We need parents that don't let kids play video games all the time, students that don't take their educations for granted and want to be there, and communities that value education by paying teachers more. Obama says that he is behind the major goals of NCLB of raising standards and providing highly qualified teachers. However, the problem with NCLB is through the implementation, the way assessment is being done, and that it is under funded. His answer shows that he has a clear understanding of No Child Left Behind and how it needs to be changed.

The next question was probably the most intense question of the day. It was about why the Democratic Party has abandoned the workers and support amnesty for illegal immigrants. Obama began by talking about how unions have weakened and how he has worked to prevent the influence of lobbyists and special interests. The person that asked the question then specifically asks about amnesty for illegal immigrants. Obama then layed his immigration stance. He would have stronger border enforcement and stricter employer sanctions for those hire illegal immigrants to prevent more people from crossing the border. Then we have to provide a pathway to citizenship because it is impossible to round up 12 million people. Economically it would cost too much to do so. We should have illegal immigrants that are here pay a fine, learn English, make sure they have a clean record, and then provide a chance to gain citizenship. He says this is a comprehensive approach and is realistic. His answer garnered a lot of applause from the crowd that knows the immigration first hand after the immigration raid that took place in December. Two people that I know are independents and former Bush voters said that his answer to the immigration was fantastic.

The final question was from a college student about rising college tuition. Obama gave two specific things he would do to provide immediate results. First, he explained that there are two types of students loans. One is directly from the government. The other is a promise from the government to banks to provide loans. Currently, banks make $2 billion a year profit off of these loans. He is all for banks for making money, but not on the backs of our kids going to college. Second, he would expand national service plans for those going into jobs like teaching, social work, and others, so that they tuition will be forgiven.

Obama then says he has to make a pitch for your support in the Iowa caucuses. He says he knows that Iowans like to look under the hood, kick the tires, and take the candidates out for a test drive, but he hopes they will support him. He then urges everyone in attendance that if they aren't going to support him, then please support someone in the caucuses because this race is far too important to sit on the sidelines. This was a noble call that was very impressive.

I know that three of the most active Democratic women in town signed pledge cards to support Obama. This will turn out to be a big help to Obama's campaign here and will hurt Hillary because she won't be able to use the gender card. Overall, though, the biggest endorsement in town will still be that of the UAW.

I came away more impressed with Obama than I did after the Ames event because I learned more about his positions on the issues. His positions aren't as well-defined as John Edwards' are, but then Obama hasn't been running for president since 2003. Obama still has time to fine tune his positions and come out with specific policies. Today, I learned there is at least some meat on the bones. The overall feeling from talking to people after the event, the agreement was that he didn't seem to be a smooth politician, but a nice guy with the right priorities.

Report from Obama Event in Marshalltown: Part 1

I attended the Barack Obama event held in Marshalltown today. This was a great event with probably close to 500 people there. There were so many people that the overflow room was full. As you probably can tell, I decided not to liveblog the event, but Chase from Iowa progress was able to. This was my second time attending an Obama event. The first was in Ames in front of 5,000 people. Here are my reports from the Ames event (part 1 and part 2).

Obama began by saying this was the 2oth county in Iowa that he has been to already and he will surely make it to all 99 counties this year. He thanks everyone who helped organize the event and all of the local elected officials. Then he goes into his bio. He talks about helping people organize in Chicago right after college and the one thing he learned is that ordinary people, when given the opportunity to work together can accomplish great things. Talks about going to Harvard, getting a job, etc. Then says when he first decided to run for state Senate people would ask him two questions. First, where did he get that funny name? Then they would ask why a nice guy like him would want to get into something dirty and nasty like politics? He said politics today is more of a business than a mission. He adds that politics doesn't have to be that way and shouldn't be that way.

Obama then says that our nation faces some big challenges. He says our health care system is broken, our education system is inadequate, we lack an energy policy, we have an economy that has never been more productive, yet we have stagnant wages, and we are in a war that never should been authorized and waged. He made sure to mention that he was against the war from the beginning, which drew applause from the crowd.

In one of his best lines of the afternoon, Obama said that some people say he shouldn't be running for President and he needs to spend more time in Washington. He replied that he has spent enough time in Washington to see that it needs to be changed.

He then outlines some priorities he would have as President. First, he sees no reason not to have Universal Health Care by the end of the next President's first term. He would put more money into early childhood education. He discusses the shortcomings of NCLB saying that we passed a bill called No Child Left Behind, but have left the funding behind. He also goes into the challenges of global climate change and that with the use of incentives. He discusses that acid rain is no longer a challenge because we used incentives that made it worthwhile for entrepreneurs and businesses to come up with solutions. He says the same can be done for carbon emissions and renewable fuels.

Headed to see Barack Obama

I am about to leave to go see Barack Obama at an event in Marshalltown. The event starts at 12:45 and is at Marshalltown Community College at DeJardin Hall. I know they have Wi-fi there, so I hope to find a place to liveblog at. Check back later for updates.

Generation Iowa Commission Signed by Culver

The Generation Iowa Commission was signed in to law by Gov. Chet Culver yesterday. The Generation Iowa Commission has the goal to stop Iowa's brain drain and keep young adults in the state.

The author of the bill is Rep. Elesha Gayman, who is from rural Scott Co. She writes about the bill on her blog for the Quad City times, where she asks..

But why should the common Iowan care?
I am glad she asks for my opinion. Currently, Iowa's biggest export is our well educated youth. We are investing in providing a high quality education to our children through public education, then we let the product of that bolt out the door at the first chance they get. To keep Iowa growing, we need to keep the product of our quality education system in the state, so that we can reap the benefits.

Rep. Gayman says...
If keeping your family and friends nearby is not a good enough reason, may I suggest that it is in your best financial interest? As the population continues to age and our tax base erodes, who is going to pay for schools, healthcare, roads, public safety and prisons? Why would a company even consider coming to Iowa if there aren’t enough workers?

I’m sure many folks wish I would stop talking about it, but I think we are finally starting to make progress. At a time when our workforce is aging and baby boomers are approaching retirement, it has become clear that we don’t have enough people to fill the ranks. Iowans are starting to wake up and realize our state ranks near last in retaining college graduates.

Rep. Gayman explains the details of the bill..

Our Generation Iowa bill was signed by the Governor today. It creates a Generation Iowa Commission comprised of 15, 18 to 35 year olds from diverse backgrounds who will be charged with three tasks: make recommendations to the legislature on how to keep and retain young people; promote and market Iowa to help recruit business, new industry, and young people; and create best practices for employers who are looking to keep and retain young talent.

Generation Iowa will be the needed foundation to an issue that is the single biggest challenge to our state’s successful economic future.

This is good start on reversing the trend of Iowa's brain drain. It will be interesting to follow what comes out of the Generation Iowa Commission.

O'Reilly Flips Out Over Illegal Immigration

Bill O'Reilly is really losing it. I have seen O'Reilly flip out before, but never like this. O'Reilly and Geraldo are discussing an illegal immigrant that was charged with drunk driving. The discussion quickly turns in a shouting match, where Geraldo tells Bill to cool his jets and then says, "Don't obscure a tradegy to make a cheap political point." I pretty much agree with Geraldo on this on.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Obama to Speak at ICAN Leadership Training Conference

From my inbox.

ICAN will hold its annual Leadership Training Conference on Saturday, April 21 – from 12:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. – at the Foxboro Conference Center in Johnston (6163 86th Street -- map available online at

This is your opportunity to network with other Iowa progressives and learn more about ways to improve our communities, state and nation. Our keynote speaker this year is Senator Barack Obama, U.S. Senator and best-selling author of The Audacity of Hope.

In addition, we will offer a workshop on using “Our Common Values” to build progressive power and unite our voices around a shared progressive voice. The Our Common Values training session will provide an interactive small-group experience that will stretch your ways of thinking and doing – and have practical application in our shared work. These small group sessions will be fun and high-energy as well as thought provoking.

Due to limited seating, pre-registration is required. There is a $35 registration fee per member for the Conference, which includes lunch, awards ceremony, workshop and keynote speaker. You will find a Leadership Conference Registration Form on line at or by emailing Please complete the form and return it to us along with your $35 per person registration fee. Please pre-register by April 9. The Conference will be well worth your registration costs!

This looks like it will be a great event.

Iowa CCI Sponsoring VOICE Phonebanks

From Iowa Voters...

Use your voice on the phone to get your political VOICE back! You can join this weekend and next with Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement in canvassing and calling to motivate our legislators. E-mail if you would like to help.

Here’s some of the options:

Phone Banks:
-Friday, April 6, 10am-noon
-Friday, April 13, 10am-noon
-Friday, April 20, 10 am-noon
-Wednesday, April 11, 5:30-8:30 pm
-Wednesday, April 18, 5:30-8:30 pm

On Saturday, April 14 and 21, there will be one group working on the phone bank and another group doing door to door canvassing. They expect to work from 10am-2pm both days.

You may be able to help even if you don’t live in Des Moines.
Get in touch with Jessica. Use your voice for VOICE.

March Presidential Poll Results

The results are in from the March Straw Poll. The poll question was who do you support for the Democratic Nominee for President in 2008? 240 votes were cast in the poll.

Here are the results...

1. John Edwards 40%
2. Barack Obama 31%
3. Bill Richardson 10%
4. Hillary Clinton 8%
5. Joe Biden 5%
6. Dennis Kucinich 3%
7. Chris Dodd 3%
8. Mike Gravel 1%