Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Debating Ending Federal Income Tax Deductabilty

The House held a public hearing tonight on rather to end the federal income tax deductability. I have been able to follow the happenings through Twitter.

Speaker Murphy had to clear the public from the House Chambers. Republicans are crying out that the taxpayers were kicked out while Democrats tried to push through a tax increase. I am sure Democrats have a different story.

Here's Radio Iowa's version...

A crowd of perhaps 600 Iowans was ordered out of the Iowa House tonight. It happened during a public hearing on a tax bill Democrats are advancing. The crowd was booted for failing to abide by the rules of the House which prohibit "demonstrations of any type from the gallery." (Those words in quotation in the previous sentence are posted on a sign located at the door that leads to the seating areas which overlook the House floor.) Many in the crowd booed and hissed at those who did not share their opinion. They applauded and cheered those who agreed with their point of view.

Iowans for Tax Relief president Ed Failor, Junior, seemed to get the largest burst of applause and cheers from the crowd. Later, Failor accused House Speaker Pat Murphy (D-Dubuque) -- the leader who ordered the crowd out -- of being "a Nazi."
The Democrats plan by ending the ability to deduct your federal income taxes they would be able to lower the tax rates and give the middle class a tax cut. The information I got at a legislative forum on Saturday was that if you make less than $127,00 then you would get a tax cut. The plan was endorsed on Sunday by the Des Moines Register and the Cedar Rapids Gazette.

The most interesting Twitter comment came from Rep. Chris Hagenow (R-Windsor Heights)...
Ed Failor Jr. gave a tremendous speech on respecting the Iowans that built our communities and the future contributors to our state.
To translate what Failor means... we should be respecting the Iowans that
have money and who do everything in the community.

Currently, lower-income non-elderly households in Iowa pay a much greater share of their meager incomes in state and local taxes than high-income families pay according to the Iowa Policy Project (pdf). By ending the ability to deduct federal income tax, it would make the share each tax bracket pays more even and low income Iowans would no longer have to carry the load.

**Update at 10:20**
I watched the local news to see what spin they would put on this and it was surprisingly good. The antics allowed the news to share the facts. If you make less than $127,000 you get a couple hundred dollar tax cut. If you makes between $127,000 and $250,000 then you pay a few hundred dollars more. If you make more than $250,000 then you would pay just above $2,000 more.

**Update at 10:35**
John Deeth calls the out roar at the Statehouse a "Gucci riot."
...the Legislative service Bureau notes:
The income tax reform plan proposed by legislators would reduce average taxes for Iowans earning below $125,000 — but would be revenue neutral for the state because it would increase taxes for those earning above that level.
Revenue neutral. So calling the elimination of federal deductibility a "tax increase' is disingenuous. It's an increase for those more able to pay, and a decrease for people who need the help. Which, of course, is exactly why Republicans are so vehement.

Historic East Village Gas Station Set to Move Saturday

Thought I'd share this story...

Historic Gas Station Set to Move Saturday; Fundraising Push Continues
Des Moines, Ia.--The historic gas station located at 203 E. Grand in downtown Des Moines will be moved to a temporary location at E. 3rd and E. Walnut Saturday, April 4, 2009 between 7 a.m. and noon. The public is invited to come and watch the event.

Jeremy Patterson House Moving from Washington, Iowa, was hired to conduct the move by project contractor Mike Kinter, Kinter Construction, Des Moines. Historic East Village, Inc., hired Kinter at its February board meeting when it agreed to lead the effort to save the gas station and become its temporary owner until a permanent owner and location can be found.

In mid-March, HEV signed an agreement with Hansen Companies to utilize a portion of its property, the former Bud Mulcahy Jeep lot at E. 3rd and E. Walnut, through late July 2009. The gas station will be "parked" there as HEV continues its efforts to secure a permanent home for it. HEV will also be working on a strategy in the event no prospects come forth.

"The gas station is still very much endangered," said Historic East Village President Sarah Oltrogge. "Although we've overcome the first hurdle to save it, there is still much to be done to find a permanent location for the building. If none is found in the next few months, we're going to have to make some tough choices."

Fundraising

To date, nearly $40,000 has been raised to offset moving expenses. Funding has been received from the Patty and Jim Cownie Charitable Fund of the Greater Des Moines Community Foundation, the State Historical Society of Iowa, ConocoPhilips Corporation and many private organizations and individuals. DesignSmith has also donated services in-kind and been instrumental in ensuring the historic integrity of the gas station is maintained. The estimated cost to move the gas station is $60,000-$70,000.

HEV continues its urgent push to raise the additional funds needed to save the gas station. Pledge forms and more information can be found at www.eastvillagedesmoines.com.

HEV will also be launching a "Buy a Brick" campaign as a fundraiser to help with gas station expenses. Anyone donating more than $50 to the effort will receive a salvaged brick from the gas station with a metallic plaque affixed depicting an engraved historical image and description of the building. More information on the campaign will be available at www.eastvillagedesmoines.com.

History

The gas station building dates back to 1931 when it was erected by The Continental Oil Company (now ConocoPhillips) as a training station for gas dealers. Constructed of terra cotta in the Spanish Mission Revival style of architecture, the building served the east side of downtown Des Moines as a gas and service station nearly 80 years. JSC Properties, which is owned by Jim Cownie, acquired the property in August of 2008 as part of a larger real estate transaction. Cownie plans to develop the property as a parking lot.

JSC Properties had talked with potential buyers who wanted to save the building. Ultimately, none of those discussions progressed because of the high costs involved in moving and construction. Initial research determined the building is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, though it is not currently listed. HEV is working with the State Historic Preservation Office to ensure the move is handled in a manner that does not jeopardize the historic character of the building.

In October 2008, the Des Moines Rehabber's Club named the structure one of seven "Most Endangered Properties" in Des Moines.

Harkin Looks at Taxing Health Care Benefits

During the presidential campaign, Democrats railed against John McCain's plan to makes you pay income tax your health care benefits.



Last week, Sen. Tom Harkin came out saying that he is willing to look into taxing health care benefits.

"The more we start looking at it, the more briefings I get, this may be, if it's done right ... a good source of revenue to provide better benefits for everyone," Harkin told reporters during a conference call.

Harkin said he would support shielding low-income workers from the tax if such a measure was proposed. [...]

The concept was at the heart of the health care plan proposed during the 2008 presidential campaign by Republican nominee John McCain, an Arizona senator. [...]

Harkin is a senior majority member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. He is in charge of drafting language dealing with disease prevention and public health policy for a health-care reform bill expected this spring.

This is a ridiculous position and would encourage more businesses to not offer health care benefits and more people to forgo the insurance benefits from their employer.

Creating a Better Working Climate

Republicans talk about creating a better business climate in the state. Well, here is how to create a better working climate.

Talent, Tolerance, Technology, Territorial Assets, and Tension

These are the workplace characteristics to seek if you’re wanting a job that will offer exciting challenges and have the best chance to survive the economic downturn and thrive in the next upswing - at least that’s my theory. Challenge it if you like.

Richard Florida has demonstrated how talent, tolerance, and technology can help a city prosper, attracting creative people and the businesses that want to hire them. He has recently added “territorial assets” to the mix (locational amenities) and I’ve long promoted Tension as another T - people need a reason, a challenge - to form community and generate new ideas.

It stands to reason (and Florida may have said this somewhere) that the ideal workplace would also offer:

  • A chance to work with talented, experienced, and wise co-workers.
  • Leadership that is tolerant or open to new ideas, alternative approaches to problem solving, or working generally.
  • Top technology that increases efficiency (which doesn’t necessarily mean every latest gadget or program).
  • A great location near amenities of interest to me (whether transit, roads, parks, restaurants, cafes, pedestrian malls).
  • The types of challenges or tensions in which bright creative people can make a difference.

Status quo is boring; a company just raking in the money without much effort can be a dull place to work after a while (creative people often seek more than a good paycheck).

By contrast, threats, tensions, and new challenges can force all the talented people in an organization to elevate their performance - and the current once-in-a-lifetime economic event is creating many new challenges.

And, I would argue that those companies most open or tolerant to trying new things in the current downturn, to introducing new technologies (such as social media in the workplace), ensuring their location both appeals to workers and helps them be productive - these are the organizations most likely to survive and thrive.

Iowa can reverse the brain drain by creating a better working climate and thrive in the new creative economy.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Regulating Plant Food?

In a hearing last week about regulating carbon, Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) remarkably questioned the need to regulate carbon, saying that carbon is just plant food and we'd do more harm than good.


SHIMKUS: It’s plant food … So if we decrease the use of carbon dioxide, are we not taking away plant food from the atmosphere? … So all our good intentions could be for naught. In fact, we could be doing just the opposite of what the people who want to save the world are saying.

Sen. Conrad's Wife Says Grassley is Good

Sen. Grassley is at it again.

This time at a budget hearing, Grassley is joking back and forth with Sen. Kent Conrad (D-SD).

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND): Oh, you are good.
Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA): Your wife said the same thing.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Turning Schools into Community Centers

This sounds like a common sense idea.

From Future Majority...

Sec. of Education Arne Duncan appeared on the Charlie Rose show a couple weeks ago discussing how rethinking the use of our nation's schools could open up several doors to our communities.

Secretary Duncan outlines his vision of schools serving as "community centers," in which facilities are not limited to educating children during the day, but also holding functions at night to improve the community. Duncan points out that schools are one institution in our society that has a plethora of resources -- "classrooms, computer labs, libraries, gyms, and pools" -- and they're all the taxpayers'. Duncan also sees this effort not falling solely on educators' plates, but instead being pursued by a partnership of school officials and non-profits, especially the YMCAs and Boys and Girls Clubs. School officials would have class from 9-3 (or thereabouts, depending on the school system's schedule), with the partnership of non-profits coming in and running "academic, social, enrichment, and even medical services" from 3-9.

Applying Manure on Frozen Ground?

It seems like common sense not to put manure on frozen ground that will run into our rivers and streams when the ground thaws, however a bill that would allow just that is moving through the statehouse.

From Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (CCI)...

We need you to stand up for clean water NOW!

Our legislators caved in to corporate big-moneyed pressure today with the passage of SF 432 through the Senate with a vote of 43-6. This bad, last-minute regulation of manure application on frozen ground undercuts the DNR's authority and is a slap in the face to thousands of everyday Iowans who are fighting for clean water.

We need to stand together for our water quality and the health of all Iowans!

Take URGENT action NOW:

1. Join with us for a critical press conference and lobby day at the State Capitol Monday, March 30 at 10:45 am. We need you there to have a strong presence to show our legislators that Iowans are appalled by this decision and blatant disregard for our quality of life.

Following the press conference, we will lobby our legislators and deliver letters to key leaders to make sure our message is heard loud and clear. We should wrap up the day by 3 pm. Please reply to this email and let us know if you can be there.

2. Contact key leaders at the Statehouse. We need you to tell Governor Culver, House leadership Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Speaker Pat Murphy and your House representative to tell them to stop kowtowing to corporate ag special interests and stand up for our water quality and the common good. Call on them to protect everyday Iowans and to stand in opposition to SF 432. Follow this link
to send them an email, or you can give them a call.

Gov. Culver: 515-281-5211
Rep. McCarthy: 515-281-3054
Rep. Murphy: 515-281-5566
House switchboard: 515-281-3221

Friday, March 27, 2009

Republicans in Congress to Inroduce Their Budget Next Wednesday

Barack Obama has baited Republicans in Congress to lay out their own budget instead strictly criticizing his. Yesterday, Republicans promised to propose their budget next Wednesday.

Well, do you know when they've repromised to deliver it?

Wednesday.

Wednesday, April 1.

April Fool's Day.

The GOP is now promising to deliver its budget on April Fool's Day.

One of the their highlights is to simplify the tax code by making everyone who makes over $100,000 pay a 25% tax rate. That would reduce the the tax rate for the super rich from 35%. It is basically the Bush Tax Cuts on steroids.

Paul Krugman Lecture in Iowa City Today at 4

I saw this on a friend's Twitter...

Nobel laureate economist Paul Krugman discusses the economy, U Iowa law school's Levitt Lecture. Today, 4 pm McBride Auditorium Free
Wish I could go.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Politico: Bruce Braley a member to watch

The Politico has named Iowa's Bruce Braley as a Representitive to watch in an article about future leaders of the Democratic caucus in the US. House

In numbers alone, the 2006 and 2008 classes — which gave Democrats the huge majority — now represent nearly a third of the caucus.

Lawmakers such as Iowa Rep. Bruce Braley and the two Murphys — Christopher of Connecticut and Patrick J. of Pennsylvania — are the members to watch, aides and lobbyists suggest. All three beat tough Republican incumbents to win their House seats. And now each is dispensing wisdom to the class right below them about how to do the same.

Braley is now a vice chairman of the DCCC, responsible for recruitment, fundraising and making sure members are doing everything necessary to retain their seats.

Culver Signs Bill to Crack Down on Meth Dealers

Yesterday, Governor Culver signed a bill that would crack down on Meth dealers. The bill would make it easier for law enforcement to track multiple purchases of pseudoephedrine by creating an electronic log.

From the Waterloo/Cedar Falls Courier...

Gov. Chet Culver has signed a measure that tightens the sale of the drug pseudoephedrine, which can be used to make meth.

The bill tracks multiple purchases of the nonprescription cold medicine.

Under the measure, customers buying pseudoephedrine must sign an electronic log that records the purchase, a move aimed at building a registry where authorities can keep track who is buying the drug.

Currently, customers sign a paper log.
I wrote about this bill last month as it moved through the State Senate. Here's more info...
An electronic system with real-time tracking would cost about $750,000 over two years, said Sen. Steve Sodders, D-State Center. The state is seeking a $750,000 federal grant, and if that falls through, the law would not take effect, he said.

"If someone's buying pills in Marshalltown, Ames, Newton, there's no way for law enforcement to know that under the current system with the handwritten log," Sodders said.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Great Events Taking Place this Weekend in Des Moines

There is a lot going on in Des Moines this weekend.

March 28 – Iowa Democratic Women’s Summit
Come to the Iowa Historical Building, E. 6th and Grand, to discuss how to increase the number of women in elected positions. Senator Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota is the keynote speaker. Cost is $35 and the event runs from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Light refreshments and lunch included. Contact DAWN’s List, PO Box 433, Johnston, IA 50131 or nancylbobo@yahoo.com.

March 28 – Iowa Earth Summit

The Drake Environmental Action League invites students from across Iowa to convene for a conference to discuss environmental problems ranging from local stream cleaning to global climate change. It begins at 11:00 at Drake University on the upper level of Olmsted Center. Ed Fallon will speak at 12:30. Contact Robb Krehbiel at (621) 245-7260 or rlk010@drake.edu.

March 28 - Iowa Citizen Action Network
30th Anniversary Celebration
It's been 30 years that ICAN has been working with you to fight for economic, social, environmental, and health justice! Help us honor Rep. Bruce Braley, the Progressive Coalition of Central Iowa, and Brad Lint along with our special guests William McNary, Mayor Frank Cownie, and Mike Lux. Saturday March 28 from 5:30 - 7:00 at the Hilton Garden Inn, 8600 Northpark Drive, Johnston, IA.

For more information and to see a flyer, click here:
Individual tickets available for $30 per person -- Contact Sue Dinsdale at 515-277-5077 x14 or sdinsdale@iowacan.org

March 28 & 29 – Natural Living Expo

Discover resources in Iowa to help you be kind to your body and our planet. Booths, panel discussions and free samples at the Polk County Convention Complex, 501 Grand, Des Moines from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Saturday and from 12:00 noon to 5:00 p.m. on Sunday. Lynn and Ed Fallon are part of a panel at 4:30 on Saturday. For more information, visit www.naturallivingexpo.org/.

Anti-Tax Group Opposes Tax Cut for 75% to 80% of Iowans

Speaker of the House, Pat Murphy said yesterday that the Iowa House is looking to end the ability of Iowans to deduct federal tax payments and use that money for middle class tax cuts.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Speaker Pat Murphy said there's a good chance lawmakers will take up the proposal in the closing weeks of the legislative session. He said ending the deductions would bring in hundreds of millions of dollars that would enable the state to reduce tax rates for most Iowans.

''It's something that we need, to eliminate federal deductibility and throw it into the rates,'' said Murphy, D-Dubuque. ''Seventy-five to 80 percent of all Iowans will see a tax cut.''

Legislative leaders are counting votes to determine if they have backing for the tax changes, Murphy said.

''If we take it up, we'll have the votes for it,'' he said.

However, Ed Failor Jr. and the Iowans for Tax Relief oppose a plan to Iowa's tax code that would give 75% to 80% of Iowans a tax cut.

The head of an anti-tax group promised a high-profile campaign to build opposition to the proposal.

''We're going to do direct mail. We're going to do radio. We're going to do television. We're going to do what we do,'' said Ed Failor Jr., president of Muscatine-based Iowans for Tax Relief. ''Their phones are going to light up.''

Failor said staffers are working out the details of the campaign, with commercials already produced and ready to air.

I thought the Iowans for Tax Relief would be in favor of tax cuts for the vast majority of Iowans. Instead it seems they are only in favor of tax cuts for the top 20% to 25% of Iowans.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Republicans are Losing a Generation

Young voters don't like Republicans.

From Political Wire...

A new Democracy Corps poll shows the Republican Party is "growing more and more irrelevant to America's young people. In marked contrast, young people's support for the President has expanded beyond the 66 percent support they gave him last November."

"Republicans struggle among young people for a very specific reason. At a time when young people are paying close attention to politics and when so many are struggling economically, even more so than older generations, the Republicans simply do not speak to the reality of their lives or to the issues important to them. This perception stands in marked contrast to their reaction to Barack Obama."

Monday, March 23, 2009

Deeth Disects Bob Krause

I posted earlier today that Bob Krause is getting set to challenge Charles Grassley in his 2010 reelection race. I didn't much about Krause except that he is chair of the Iowa Democratic Veterans' Caucus and was elected to the Iowa House as a 23 year old back in the 70's.

John Deeth takes a deeper look and disects a Krause - Grassley matchup...

Krause was once a wunderkind, elected to the legislature at 23 in 1972 and running statewide for state treasurer before he was 30, in 1978. In 1982 he tried a comeback in the state Senate but lost the primary. He now lives in Fairfield but his House district was on the north central border in Kossuth, Emmet and Palo Alto counties.[...]

The good news is that Krause is getting into the race against Chuck Grassley early, earlier than we've seen in a few cycles. (Art Small's 2004 campaign was literally last minute; there were some worries that we wouldn't get ANYone.)

By all accounts Krause is a good guy, but this is hardly an A list or even B list candidacy. Don't get me wrong; I've known Jean Lloyd-Jones, Dave Osterberg and Art Small for ages, and supported and voted for all of them. And my personal politics are more in line with someone like Osterberg than with Tom Vilsack.

But Vilsack was the A lister here. God bless the President, but he screwed at least three Senate races (ours, Kansas and Arizona) putting the cabinet together, and shuffled the deck dramatically in the four with appointees (Colorado, Delaware, New York and his own seat in Illinois). We won't necessarily hold all those. [...]

But you run the race you have, not the race you want. The A lister is gone, and the other A listers (Braley and Loebsack) are settling into the House. But there may be some B+ listers out there yet. [...]

Krause announces his exploratory committee on Saturday. Not many folks other than us junkies will be tuned in to this introduction. And an introduction is definitely what this guy needs. If there's some substance there, starting early helps, but if not, then you're just the next Steve Rathje.

Rep. Wasserman Schultz is Amazing

{{w|Debbie Wasserman Schultz}}, U.S. Congressw...Image via Wikipedia

This is simply amazing.

When Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz steps to the lectern at the Capitol on Monday to push for greater awareness of breast cancer risks in younger women, she'll be speaking from experience.

The Broward County Democrat and mother of three told The Miami Herald on Saturday that she successfully battled breast cancer for the past year and is going public with her story in the hope of alerting young women to its prevalence. She'll introduce legislation Monday that calls for a national education campaign targeting women between 15 and 39.

'I wanted to be able to not just stand up and say, `I'm a breast cancer survivor.' . . . I wanted to find a gap and try to fill it,'' said Wasserman Schultz, 42.

In the past year, she underwent seven major surgeries, including a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery, while balancing motherhood, Congress and her roles as a chief fundraiser for House Democrats and a political surrogate, first for Hillary Clinton and then for Barack Obama.

''I had a lot going on last year,'' she said with a laugh, sitting in the living room of the Capitol Hill town house she shares with two other members of Congress when she's in Washington. ``I'm a very focused, methodical person, and I wasn't going to let this beat me. I wasn't going to let it interfere with my life.''

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Grassley Gets a Challenger

A Democrat is preparing to challenge Sen. Grassley in the 2010 election. Bob Krause of Fairfield is set to form an exploratoy committee about a possible run against Grassley. Krause is currently chair of the Iowa Democratic Veterans' Caucus and used to be an ISU professor and employee at the Iowa DOT.

From Radio Iowa...

Krause was elected to the Iowa legislature when he was 22 years old and served six years representing his hometown area before running unsuccessfully for state treasurer in 1978. Krause has worked behind the scenes on campaigns dating back to 1970 and he worked in the Carter Administration as a regional official for the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Krause admits he's "bounced around" the country, trying his hand at a small business, before signing on as an Iowa State University professor. "Ultimately, I wound up with the Iowa D.O.T. and I was there for a number of years until I retired in 2008," Krause says.

He's written a few books and worked as a consultant in this country and overseas for a wide array of clients, including defense contractors. "I tried to go out and do the things that other people in the world do," Krause says. "I went out, tried to make a living, tried to be creative with my life, tried to give service in different areas."

Krause, who retired after 28 years in the U.S. Army Reserve, is a member of the Iowa Democratic Party's State Central Committee and he's chairman of the Iowa Democratic Veterans' Caucus. Krause has scheduled an event at the Fort Des Moines Historical Museum on Saturday at 12:15 to announce he's formed an "exploratory committee" for a U.S. Senate campaign.

I don't know Mr. Krause, but will be in Des Moines on Saturday and will try to stop by his announcement.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

It's Not About Money, It's About Power

Matt Taibbi's latest piece for Rolling Stone about the bailouts is a must read. Taibbi has a talent for digging through the BS and showing how stupid people are.

So it's time to admit it: We're fools, protagonists in a kind of gruesome comedy about the marriage of greed and stupidity. And the worst part about it is that we're still in denial — we still think this is some kind of unfortunate accident, not something that was created by the group of psychopaths on Wall Street whom we allowed to gang-rape the American Dream. When Geithner announced the new $30 billion bailout, the party line was that poor AIG was just a victim of a lot of shitty luck — bad year for business, you know, what with the financial crisis and all. Edward Liddy, the company's CEO, actually compared it to catching a cold: "The marketplace is a pretty crummy place to be right now," he said. "When the world catches pneumonia, we get it too." In a pathetic attempt at name-dropping, he even whined that AIG was being "consumed by the same issues that are driving house prices down and 401K statements down and Warren Buffet's investment portfolio down."

Liddy made AIG sound like an orphan begging in a soup line, hungry and sick from being left out in someone else's financial weather. He conveniently forgot to mention that AIG had spent more than a decade systematically scheming to evade U.S. and international regulators, or that one of the causes of its "pneumonia" was making colossal, world-sinking $500 billion bets with money it didn't have, in a toxic and completely unregulated derivatives market.

Nor did anyone mention that when AIG finally got up from its seat at the Wall Street casino, broke and busted in the afterdawn light, it owed money all over town — and that a huge chunk of your taxpayer dollars in this particular bailout scam will be going to pay off the other high rollers at its table. Or that this was a casino unique among all casinos, one where middle-class taxpayers cover the bets of billionaires.

People are pissed off about this financial crisis, and about this bailout, but they're not pissed off enough. The reality is that the worldwide economic meltdown and the bailout that followed were together a kind of revolution, a coup d'état. They cemented and formalized a political trend that has been snowballing for decades: the gradual takeover of the government by a small class of connected insiders, who used money to control elections, buy influence and systematically weaken financial regulations.

The crisis was the coup de grâce: Given virtually free rein over the economy, these same insiders first wrecked the financial world, then cunningly granted themselves nearly unlimited emergency powers to clean up their own mess. And so the gambling-addict leaders of companies like AIG end up not penniless and in jail, but with an Alien-style death grip on the Treasury and the Federal Reserve — "our partners in the government," as Liddy put it with a shockingly casual matter-of-factness after the most recent bailout.

The mistake most people make in looking at the financial crisis is thinking of it in terms of money, a habit that might lead you to look at the unfolding mess as a huge bonus-killing downer for the Wall Street class. But if you look at it in purely Machiavellian terms, what you see is a colossal power grab that threatens to turn the federal government into a kind of giant Enron — a huge, impenetrable black box filled with self-dealing insiders whose scheme is the securing of individual profits at the expense of an ocean of unwitting involuntary shareholders, previously known as taxpayers.

Thicke Considering Run for Sec. of Agriculture

Desmoinesdem broke the news yesterday at Bleeding Heartland that Francis Thicke, an organic dairy farmer near Fairfield, is planning to run for Secretary of Agriculture.

Thicke would be an outstanding asset to Iowa as Secretary of Agriculture. A working farmer and expert on many agricultural policy issues, he currently serves on Iowa's USDA State Technical Committee and has an impressive list of publications. In the past he has served on the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission, the Iowa Food Policy Council, and the Iowa Organic Standards Board. [...]

If Thicke runs for Secretary of Agriculture, his campaign is likely to become a focal point for environmentalists who aren't satisfied with our current Democratic leadership in Iowa.
Thicke released this statement yesterday with more information...
March 20, 2009

THICKE FORMS EXPLORATORY COMMITTEE FOR IOWA SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE

Francis Thicke (Tic-kee) announced today that he has formed an exploratory committee to advise him on the possibility of running for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture in the 2010 election. Thicke and his wife, Susan, are owners and operators of an organic, grass-based dairy farm near Fairfield . They process their milk on the farm and market it locally through grocery stores and restaurants.

Citing estimates that more than 80% of the $8 billion worth of food consumed in Iowa comes from out of state, Thicke said "Growing more of our food in Iowa represents a multi-billion dollar economic development opportunity." This potential economic activity could "create thousands of new jobs and help revitalize rural communities in Iowa, as well as provide Iowans with fresh, nutritious food," said Thicke.

The ethanol industry has been struggling to survive in today's changing economic climate. "Iowa's investment in ethanol production has brought economic development to agriculture, and we need to protect that investment," said Thicke. "However, it is time to reassess, and consider how future investments in renewable energy can be better targeted to profit farmers, and better protect our natural resource base."

Thicke has a Ph.D. in agronomy/soil fertility and has previously served at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C. as National Program Leader for Soil Science for the USDA-Extension Service. Thicke frequently speaks at conferences and workshops in Iowa, across the Midwest, and nationally on a wide range of topics, including local food systems and economic development, ecologically sound animal production systems, organic farming practices, and soil management for sustainable farming.

Thicke has served on the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission and the Iowa Food Policy Council at the appointment of Governor Vilsack, and on the Iowa Organic Standards Board at the appointment of Governor Branstad. He currently serves on Iowa's USDA State Technical Committee.

"I am looking forward to engaging people across the state in a dialogue on opportunities to make Iowa agriculture more prosperous and sustainable," Thicke said.

My first thought was that Thicke is qualified to hold this position and lead on key issues such as renewable energy, locally grown foods, and local control of hog confinements. Next, I thought this means Denise O'Brien, who narrowly lost in 2006, won't be running. O'Brien and Thicke have similar backgrounds and why beat each other up in a primary when they both care about the same issues.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Culture of Caution

From Mike Lux...

You would think that with the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, Democrats at least would get that we need to make big, transformative changes as soon as possible.

And most of them do. Certainly President Barack Obama's economic recovery bill and budget - as well as calls for fundamental reform of health care, education and energy policy - show that he does. Certainly House Speaker Nancy Pelosi does: On Tuesday, she said in a meeting I attended that the House would pass Obama's major reform legislation in 2009. Most Democrats in the House and Senate understand that the moment for big change has arrived.

Not so much for a small minority of Democrats in the Senate. In Wednesday's POLITICO, 14 Democrats are identified as having concerns with Obama's policy plans. They're saying, "Hold on; not so fast; let's go slow; let's be cautious; Americans didn't want big change." Said Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.): "The American people and businesses are tightening their belts. I think we need to show that the government can economize, as well." Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), asked when he'd reach his breaking point, said, "Right now. I'm concerned about the amount that's being offered in [Obama's] budget." [...]

Windows for real change and real reform don't come around very often in American history - four times since our founding days (in the 1860s, early 1900s, 1930s and 1960s). These moments close fast when they do arrive. Democrats need to break out of the culture of caution and embrace Obama's transformative agenda.

Rachel Maddow Explains the AIG bounses

Friday, March 20, 2009

Wages Increased Following Immigration Raids

File this in the 'no, duh' column.

From Radio Iowa...

A report by the Center for Immigration Studies shows wages increased, as did the number of legal workers, at six Swift meatpacking plants following immigration raids in 2006. One of the raids happened at the Swift plant in Marshalltown.

Report author Jerry Kammer says Swift had to increase the wages and pay bonuses to new workers to get back to full production after the raids. Kammer says it was a supply and demand issue as they needed to find workers quickly and had to make the job more attractive.

He says all the plants returned to full production within five months -- an indication that the plants could operate at full capacity without the presence of illegal workers.

Kammer says the report goes against the myth that illegal immigrants are needed as Americans don't want to do these types of jobs. "I think that's one of the major points here, that Americans will do these jobs if the jobs are made decent. If they pay decent and the working conditions are improved, more Americans will do these jobs," Kammer says.

SEIU/Change that Works Event on March 23rd in Des Moines

From my inbox...

SEIU / Change that Works to hold health care event prior to the Des Moines White House Health Care Summit on March 23rd

On Monday, March 23, 2009 the Obama White House and Iowa's elected officials will lead one of only five national forums to discuss how this Congress and this President can provide quality, affordable coverage to every man, woman, and child in the country.

This will undoubtedly be the most important health care event of the year in Iowa and Change that Works will help drive the discussion. At 8:45 AM, on the second floor of the Polk County Convention Complex in room J, just down the hall from the summit itself, Change that Works will hold an event calling on Iowa’s elected officials to pass a meaningful, comprehensive health care reform bill this year

The event will highlight the urgent need to pass President Obama’s budget proposal, which Congress is set to debate over the next several weeks. The proposal will secure the funding we need to fix a health care system that has bankrupted one American every 30 seconds and created financial uncertainty for thousands more.

Speakers at the event will include: Cathy Glasson, RN, President of SEIU Local 199; Chris Petersen, President of the Iowa Farmers’ Union, and an Iowa member of the AARP. These speakers will discuss how the President’s budget proposal, and the funds allocated to health care reform, will help the Iowans they represent.

“This budget will secure much needed change for rural Americans: modernizing the health care infrastructure in rural areas, allocating $330 million to increase the number of doctors, nurses and dentists in places experiencing provider shortages. However, the most critical element of the new budget is the $634 billion investment in fixing our health care system, said Petersen. Adding, “Without this investment, skyrocketing health care costs will continue to erode the economic landscape of rural America.”

Where: Polk County Convention Complex

Second Floor, Room J (follow the signs)

501 Grand Avenue

Des Moines, IA

When: Monday March 23rd at 8:45 AM

Who: Change that Works / SEIU

Cathy Glasson, RN, President of SEIU Local 199

Chris Petersen, President of the Iowa Farmers’ Union

Iowa member of AARP

Thursday, March 19, 2009

6 Years in Iraq Down 2 to Go?

Today marks the 6th anniversary of the war in and on Iraq. With US forces committed to the country for at least another two years and an escalation in Afghanistan under way, we should not forget the men and women who have had their lives put on the line, nor the hundreds of thousands of civilians who have died during this prolonged conflagration.

With concerns about the economy here at home, we should be doubly aware of the connection between our warring ways and the economic engine that runs it.

Tonight in Iowa City, a Candlelight Peace Walk will commemorate the anniversary of the Iraq War. The walk will begin at 7PM on the sidewalk in front of Old Capitol, on the west side of the intersection of Clinton St. & Iowa Ave. This night we will remember all those who have suffered and died in this humanitarian crisis. This includes U. S. and Coalition soldiers who have died, U.S. and Coalition forces injured, all those who have committed suicide as a result of their experience, as well as innocent Iraqis who have died, been injured, or displaced. And this includes all of their families and friends. Please bring your own candle. The walk will end at Old Brick where refreshments will be served, approximately 9 PM. For more information contact PEACE Iowa - (319) 354-1925.

According to United for Peace and Justice, the war in Iraq has led to:

• at least one million Iraqis killed
• 4.5 million Iraqis displaced and 5 million orphans
• over 4,000 U.S. service people killed, tens of thousands wounded
• more than $600,000,000,000 already spent
• $720 million spent each day
• estimates that in the end we will spend upwards of $3 trillion

The Voice of America probably has one of the more ironic stories stating "As Iraq enters its seventh year of war, he [Robert Gates] predicted the country will emerge much better off by the time U.S. troops finish their scheduled withdrawal at the end of 2011, nearly nine years after they arrived." I'm sure that the facts on the ground do not support that assessment.

Iowa Legislature Votes for Gender Balance

The AP reports the Iowa House has backed measures intended to increase the number of women on hundreds of local government boards and fight against pay discrimination.

The first measure would expand a 22-year-old law requiring gender balance on state panels to include hundreds of local boards and commissions. Statistics show women make up 18 percent of the membership on those panels despite comprising more than half of Iowa's population.

The other measure would extend federal legislation banning pay discrimination by businesses with 15 or more workers. The state law would drop that figure to four.

Both measures were approved Wednesday and go to the Senate.
Perhaps this will allow the possibility for more women to be elected to state and national offices--Iowa continues to be one of only three states that has never elected a woman as governor or to Congress.

On the other hand, it is often difficult on the local level to find interested citizens to serve on boards. Whether this attempt to create gender equity is helpful or creates an environment that makes it more difficult to deliver local governance is a great question.
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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

No more automatic pay raises for Congress

Russ Feingold (D-WI) only accept a pay raise after he wins reeclection. Every other year, Feingold returns the pay raise that Congress gives themselves. Feingold is fighting to end these automatic pay raises for member's of Congress.

I’m sure that you, and every single other person across our country, would like a job that gives you an automatic, few thousand dollar, pay raise every year. Doesn’t matter the state of your company, doesn’t matter how well you’ve performed, you just get the pay raise every year no matter what. Sounds great right? Currently, if you’re a member of the House or Senate, that’s what happens and after years of fighting this flawed, back-door pay raise system, we’ve finally made some progress on this issue.

As you may know, I don’t take pay raises during each of my six-year terms in office, and I return such increases to the Treasury Department. And I'm pleased that this year during a time of major economic woes Congress voted down a 2009 pay raise for itself. But trust me, after pressing this issue for a number of Congresses, that’s usually not the case, and if we don’t act, Congress is scheduled to get another raise come 2010.

Last evening, Senator Harry Reid and I were able to pass through the Senate legislation that ends the automatic pay raise system. If this legislation makes it through the House, and is signed by the President, that means that when Congress wants to give itself a raise in the future, it must do so through legislation, in the light of day.

But this bill has to make it through the House first and while I’m hopeful that members will do the right thing, I’m concerned that far too many still don’t get it.

Now is the time, when Americans in every state are hurting economically, when we all outraged by the taxpayer funded bonuses paid to executives at AIG, to once and for all end a corrupt automatic pay raise system that only spurs distrust with people around the country.

The Party of No

A new video put out by the DNC...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

There's No One as Irish as Barack OBama

Iowa's Waterways Suffer For Bad Policy

Joe Hennager at Blue Planet Green Living has a rather inspired idea to do what the legislature in Iowa has been unable to do to protect Iowa's waterways from the massive sewage that CAFO operators pour into them through being able to dump raw hog sewage onto frozen fields. By any measure of common sense, there is no way anything good can come of this as when the spring rains and snow melt come, the sewage is washed into creeks, tributaries and eventually the rivers in Iowa.

Joe's idea, devilishly simple, stop eating pork. That's right, just say no to pork. His point is a simple one, we the consumers are responsible for this problem by supporting the practices that eventually could kill off our rivers for recreation, wildlife, and survival.

Check out his story and think about whether you want to be part of the solution or an enabler. As much as I love ham, bacon, pork chops and other things pork, I'm saying "No Pork."

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Monday, March 16, 2009

A Place at the Table

Isaiah McGee wrote an article at the Generation Iowa website about House File 572 that would put more Iowans age 18-35 on various boards and commissions around the state.

This fall the Generation Iowa Commission reported that only 114 of 1,533 commission or board seats were held by Iowans age 35 or younger. These boards and commissions help establish & execute statewide decisions including funding for projects & programs that are attractive to the next generation. The Generation Iowa Commission called for legislation that added young Iowans to appropriate boards and commissions related to economic development and quality of life amenities that are recipients of state funds and the commission has been lobbying for legislation to that effect this session.

In a year where Iowa’s natural disasters & economic issues have made it easy for the Legislature to say no to most request, they appear to welcome House File 572. HF 572 was filed last week to put at least two young Iowans, 18-35 years old, on a number of boards and commissions. These boards of influence include the Board of Regents, Vision Iowa, Iowa Great Places, ethnic & human rights commissions, and many others. The bill passed out of committee and has large bi-partisan support with nearly a quarter of the legislature co-sponsoring the bill. With the bill out of committee that means it has made it through funnel week, and waits for passage by the full Iowa House of Representatives and a repeated process in the State Senate.
This bill is one way to help reverse Iowa's brain drain. By showing that Iowa is willing to listen to young adults and give them a chance to shape the state, the state will become more welcoming to young adults.

I am active in my community where I serve as chair of a city commission, am a member of a county board, am active in my local teacher association, and am active with my county Democratic party. I know that if I lived elsewhere I would not have these opportunities to be active and influence local decisions that I care about.

My advice to young adults who might be considering getting involved is to just show up. From my experience many local communities have been run by the same core group for awhile and they are eager to have new people come in. So go out and fill out at the application to the city board or show up at the monthly meeting.

A Funnel Thing Happened...

The legislative process in Iowa continues to be a daunting proposition to understand as bills are killed before they can be voted on by the full body. Below is a summary of those items that are DOA (and that doesn't mean "Department of Aging") and those that are Stayin' Alive.

According to the Des Moines Register:

ALIVE

These bills survived today's funnel deadline and will see more debate.

Jobs and economy:

WORKERS' CHOICE OF DOCTOR: Iowans injured on the job could choose their own doctor in workers' compensation cases. Senate File 155.

PREVAILING WAGE: Workers on certain government construction projects would see government-set standards for wages and benefits. House File 333.

BARGAINING: Unions representing public employees could negotiate more items. This bill could restore much of what Culver vetoed last year; Culver said he believes a compromise may be reached. House Study Bill 269.
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MENTAL HEALTH INSURANCE: Smaller businesses that provide health insurance for their workers would have to provide coverage for mental health conditions, including alcohol and drug abuse treatment. Senate File 16.

MASS LAYOFFS: Iowa companies that lay off 25 or more would have to give workers 30 days' notice. House File 681.

WEB BUSINESS: There would be a lower investment threshold for Microsoft and other Web portal businesses that expand or locate in Iowa to get tax breaks. Senate File 302.

PUPPY MILLS: The state could inspect federally licensed dog breeders in Iowa to better deal with abuse and neglect. House File 486.

PUBLIC EMPLOYEES: A technical bill on the Public Employment Relations Board. This is the bill that was amended last year to contain open-scope bargaining legislation. House Study Bill 269.

UNEMPLOYMENT: Benefits to the unemployed would be expanded for six months if they enter a training program. House File 623.

IOWA VALUES: Various business financial assistance programs would be changed. House File 656.

MORTGAGES: To help keep people in their homes, this bill would deal with those facing bank foreclosure. House Study Bill 170.

Environment, recreation, transportation:

CAR EMISSIONS: Most Iowa passenger vehicles would have emissions standards beginning with the 2011 model year to limit greenhouse gases. House File 422.

UNINSURED MOTORISTS: Coverage in case of accidents involving uninsured or underinsured motorists would be increased. Senate File 321.

BIODIESEL: Owners of diesel vehicles filling up in Iowa would be required to use biodiesel. Senate File 294.

NO BURNING: All cities would have to enact burn bans. House File 627.

HUNTING FEES: Out-of-state visitors would be charged more to hunt and fish in Iowa. Senate File 375.

BICYCLE RIGHTS: Bicyclists would have new protections, such as full use of a lane. Senate File 117.

DRUNKEN BOATING: Operators of motorboats, sailboats and personal watercraft would be considered intoxicated when their blood-alcohol level is .08, not .10. Senate File 3.

CONSUMER FRAUD: Iowa's 3,000-plus annual fraud victims could take individual court action. Senate Study Bill 178.

WAGE DISCRIMINATION: Penalties would be stiffer for businesses that violate the state's wage discrimination law. Senate File 137.

COLD MEDICINE TRACKING: Anyone who buys cold medicine that contains pseudoephedrine would have to sign an electronic logbook at the pharmacy so that Iowa law enforcement officials could track multiple purchases. Senate File 104.

GUNS: Sheriffs would have to say in writing why they denied a gun permit. House File 193.

AGRIPROCESSORS: Business owners would face steeper penalties for child labor law violations. House File 618.

INDECENT: People caught publicly masturbating could be charged even if the victim doesn't see genitals. House File 657.

PRIVATE INFORMATION: Private information would be redacted from recorders' records. House File 506.

PORNOGRAPHY: Adults who intentionally expose children to obscene images that could cause them harm would be guilty of child abuse. Senate File 271.

Government issues:

HUMAN RIGHTS: The state Department of Human Rights would undergo a major reorganization, including splitting it into two divisions: ethnic minorities and women, and disabilities. Senate Study Bill 1304.

CIVIL RIGHTS SUBPOENAS: The civil rights commission would have extra subpoena power to investigate unfair or discriminatory practices. Senate File 96.

FLOOD INSURANCE: Cities and counties with areas located in federally designated flood areas would be required to participate in national flood insurance. House Study Bill 181.

OPEN RECORDS: Loopholes in Iowa's open records law would be closed. Senate File 282. House Study Bill 234.

SEARCHABLE BUDGET: Would create a searchable database on the state budget. House File 74.

TAX: Cities that collect more sales tax than expected would have to tell voters how they spend it. House File 111.

Education, children and families:

COLLEGE COSTS: A judge would be allowed to order parents to pay for college costs even if the parents were never married. Senate File 113.

SCHOOL MERGERS: A task force would study merging school districts. House File 265.

ATHLETES AND OPEN ENROLLMENT: High school students who open enroll would be ineligible to participate in varsity sports for six months. House File 495.

SCHOOL DROPOUT AGE: Teens could no longer drop out of high school at 16. House File 259.

Health:

PROSTHETICS: Insurance companies could not deny medically necessary prosthetic devices. House File 311.

HEALTH INSURANCE: Employees of nonprofits and small businesses could purchase the same health care coverage as state workers. Coverage for children and other issues are part of this bill. Senate File 48.

Elder Iowans:

NEW NAME FOR ELDER AFFAIRS: The Iowa Department of Elder Affairs would be renamed the Iowa Department on Aging. Senate File 204.

NURSING HOME TAX: A nursing facility provider tax will be created so that the state can put it in a fund that can be used to draw down federal money. Senate Study Bill 1179.

ABUSE AND INJURIES: Dependent adults would have more protections from abuse that doesn't result in physical injury. Senate Study Bill 1206.

Veterans

PREFERENCE FOR VETERANS: Veterans would get preferential hiring for government jobs. House File 522.

INCENTIVES: Veterans who served at least 12 months of active duty would get cash incentives up to $5,000 for working in jobs with a shortage of skilled workers. Senate File 250.

Elections:

ELECTIONS: Polls for city elections could open at noon. House File 450.

CAMPAIGN SALARIES: Candidates could not use campaign cash to pay themselves, spouses or children. Senate File 50.

PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS: The popular vote, rather than the Electoral College, would decide presidential elections. No matter how the vote turns out in Iowa, the state's electoral votes would go to the candidate winning the national popular vote. Senate File 227.

Alcohol-related

BEER AT WINERIES: Iowa wineries that host weddings and other functions could sell beer if they buy it from a wholesaler. Senate File 188.


DEAD

These bills failed to get enough votes to pass today's deadline, but no bill is ever truly dead until the session ends. Budget and tax bills are exempt from the funnel.

Jobs and economy:

FAIR SHARE: Unions could negotiate for the right to charge fees to nonunion workers covered by collective bargaining. This technically failed to meet this year's deadline, but Democratic leaders have an interest in resurrecting it House File 555.

PAYDAY LOANS: The interest rate would be capped at 36 percent for payday loans, which are based simply on a borrower's paycheck without proof of ability to pay. Advocates are pushing for it to re-emerge in a tax bill. House File 288.

MINIMUM WAGE: Iowa's hourly minimum wage would increase the same percentage every year as the increase in federal Social Security. House File 11.

Environment, recreation, transportation:

DISTRACTED DRIVERS: Drivers in Iowa would face a new penalty if they get into an accident while texting, watching TV or playing with a pet. Senate Study Bill 1217.

HANDS-FREE CELL PHONES: Drivers couldn't talk on a cell phone without a hands-free device. House File 9.

GAS TAX: State tax on gas and diesel fuel would go up, and the money would go to road and bridge repairs. Senate Study Bill 1182.

Justice:

PAROLE FOR YOUNG CRIMINALS: Iowans serving a life sentence for a crime committed while a minor could file for a sentence review after 15 years. House File 43.

Government issues:

ENGLISH LANGUAGE: An Iowa law that declares English as the state's official language would be repealed. House File 14.

HOG LOTS: Cities could regulate the siting of certain confinement feeding operation structures in unincorporated areas within two miles of city limits. Senate Study Bill 1161.

Education, children and families:

SCHOOL YEAR: The 180-day school calendar would be replaced with 990 hours of instructional school time at 5.5 hours per day for grades 1-6 and 1,080 hours of instructional time for grades 7-12. House File 26.

STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT: Students who fall behind their grade proficiency in reading or math wouldn't be able to graduate to the next level. House File 129.

GAY MARRIAGE: The marriage law would be gender neutral. The words husband and wife would be replaced with "spouse." Senate File 353.

LEAVING KIDS IN THE CAR: Leaving a child unattended in a car would be a simple misdemeanor with a $100 fine. House File 110.

SCHOOL FIELD TRIPS: Schools would be allowed to charge fees for field trips, but must waive them for low-income families. Senate File 274.

Health:

MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Restricted marijuana use would be legal in Iowa for pain and nausea relief. Senate File 293.

AUTISM: Treatment of autism spectrum disorders must be covered by health insurance for anyone under 21. Senate File 1.

Elder Iowans:

SILVER ALERT: A "silver alert" program would be created to help locate missing people with cognitive impairments, such as elderly people suffering from Alzheimer's disease. House File 369.

REPORTING HEALTH FACILITY PROBLEMS: When health care facilities commit a violation that puts someone in harm of danger or death, the Department of Inspections and Appeals would have to report those to the Legislature and governor. House File 512.

Veterans

VETERANS' PAYMENTS: Veterans' service-connected disability compensation could not be used to calculate child support or as assets in a divorce case. House File 170.

VETERANS ORGANIZATIONS: Veterans organizations wouldn't have to pay anything for a class A liquor license, regardless of how much liquor they sell. House File 66.

Elections:

CAMPAIGNING: Special interest groups couldn't distribute campaign material advocating for a certain candidate without that candidate's consent. House File 229.

Alcohol-related:

DISTILLERY SALES: Iowa distilleries could sell their products to visitors. Senate File 210.

Immigration:

STATUS DATABASE: A database would provide information to employers or state agencies on the immigration status or citizenship of a person. House File 109.

Smoking:

CASINO SMOKING: Smokers could no longer light up on the gambling floors of state-regulated casinos. House File 6.

OUTDOOR BAR SMOKING: Smoking would be allowed in outdoor areas of bars and restaurants. House File 174.

Missing in action on this list is the Senate Agriculture Committee caving in to the big-money interests of livestock commodity groups like the Iowa Pork Producers when they passed a bill (SF 308) that would undercut the Department of Natural Resources' (DNR) rulemaking process to restrict manure application on frozen ground.

Groups including Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Iowa Environmental Council, Des Moines Water Works, Iowa Farmer's Union, Sierra Club, and the Department of Natural Resources strongly opposed Senator Kibbie's bill and called on him to put our health and water quality above the interest of the factory farm industry by allowing the DNR to finish their rulemaking process.

On Senate File 308 and companion bill House File 574, CCI Executive Director Hugh Espey said, "These so-called attempts to regulate manure application on frozen ground are so weak and full of loopholes that they will lead to more water pollution caused by factory farms. For all intents and purposes, this bill stops DNR from taking strong action to protect our waterways. It's an excellent example of our elected officials kow-towing to corporate interests at the expense of the common good. Today's vote by the Senate Agriculture Committee is a slap in the face to everyone fighting for clean water."

Of course, bills can be resurrected and nothing is final until My 10th when the legislature closes it session.
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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Liberals Love the Daily Show, Moderates Watch Colbert

Surprisingly more liberals watch the Daily Show with Jon Stewart and more moderates watch the Colbert Report.

A recent PEW survey shows the breakdown...


ConservativeModerateLiberal
Daily Show222445
Colbert Report144536


From Open Left...

It's interesting that both liberals and conservatives drop off from Stewart to Colbert. I sometimes wonder how well conservatives get what Colbert is doing, and I think this is some evidence they do, and really don't like it. The whole Colbert persona is an ongoing satire on common right wing personality traits, assumptions and worldview.

This is why I think Colbert is more liberal. His whole show is actually a non-stop assault on conservative values. Additionally, Stewart has distaste for the extremes and the partisans, engages in equivalence fallacies and rhetorically plays up the center as if he is just mocking absurdity with no specific ideological mission. It's as if it just so happens that there's more absurdity to mock on the right, but of course this is no coincidence. I think Colbert gets this pattern better than Stewart.

To that end, it may be a good thing that Colbert attracts more moderates. His message is not being heard just by the choir.

Not really sure why liberals drop off from Stewart to Colbert. Maybe we don't tend to like Colbert's shtick, even knowing it is a satire it can be a bit much, particularly when he won't let his guests speak without interrupting (my only beef with Colbert, lighten up on the act with the guests who can't keep up).

Rachel Maddow Explains the Employee Free Choice Act

From Thursday's Rachel Maddow Show...

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Guest Blogger Checking In

Greeting to C.o.t.C.I. readers, I'm Garry Klein (aka Gark) who Patrick was gracious to ask to guest blog for him for a few days so he may enjoy some well-earned R & R. As "blogger-in-chief" at Popular Progressive, it is always an honor to be asked to write by your fellow bloggers, particularly those who produce high quality blogs that you admire like Patrick's.

Beginning on March 15th, I will add more. But to Patrick's many loyal readers, I will endeavor to keep the bar as high as Patrick has put it and report and comment on the latest progressive news from here in the Liquid Sunshine State of Iowa.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Jim Cramer Appears on the Daily Show

Jon Stewart interviewed Jim Cramer last night on the Daily Show. I want to thank Stewart for showing what real journalism actually is. Jim Cramer looked bad. I wouldn't be surprised if he's job hunting soon.

Andrew Sullivan has more (including video)...

I watched the Daily Show with growing shock last night. Did you expect that? I expected a jolly and ultimately congenial discussion, after some banter. What Cramer walked into was an ambush of anger. He crumbled from the beginning. From then on, with the almost cruel broadcasting of his earlier glorifying of financial high-jinks, you almost had to look away. This was, in my view, a real cultural moment. It was a storming of the Bastille. It was, as Fallows notes, journalism.

Stewart - that little comic with the Droopy voice for Lieberman - is actually becoming an accidental activist. Why he matters, is why South Park matters. He, like Matt and Trey, do not leave aside their own profession from scrutiny: they have the actual balls to take it on. There is a cloying familiarity among many cable show hosts and television personalities. We all have to get along, even though some of us may believe that others of us are very much part of the problem, rather than the solution. And what Stewart has done is rip off that little band-aid of faux solidarity for a modicum of ethical and moral accountability.

Now, I know Jim Cramer a little. The reason he crumbled last night, I think, is because deep down, he knows Stewart's right. He isn't that television clown all the way down. And deeper down, he knows it's not all a game - not now they've run off with grandpa's retirement money.

It's not enough any more, guys, to make fantastic errors and then to carry on authoritatively as if nothing just happened. You will be called on it. In some ways, the blogosphere is to MSM punditry what Stewart is to Cramer: an insistent and vulgar demand for some responsibility, some moral and ethical accountabilty for previous decisions and pronouncements.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Republicans Attempt to Block Jobs in Marshalltown

A week after Alliant pulled the plug on the proposed coal-fired power plant in Marshalltown, costing the community jobs over the next five years, Republicans in the Iowa Senate are attempting to block a construction project at the Iowa Veterans that would create many jobs in the community.

From Iowa Independent...

Senate passed the bonding plan to fund upgrades at corrections facilities across the state, improvements at the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown, several state Department of Natural Resources projects and repairs and maintenance at state facilities. Democrats contend that the money will create 5,000 jobs. Republicans say the plan spends too much on unneeded projects.

All 18 Republican Senators voted against the measure.

Passenger Rails Service from Chicago to Iowa City Gaining Steam

An ICE 3 high-speed train on the Ingolstadt-Mu...Image via Wikipedia

Passenger rail service from Chicago to Iowa City is gaining steam.

From the Gazette...
"Within the next couple of years it's going to be a sure thing," said Dick Welch of Swisher, longtime passenger rail advocate and Iowa's representative to the National Association of Railroad Passengers. "From a national standpoint, I think things are really looking up for passenger rail. Obama and his folks are very pro-rail."

Mike Tramontina, director of the state Department of Transportation, will go even further.

"I'd be willing to bet you a lunch that in five years we're going to be riding passenger rail through Iowa City to Des Moines," Tramontina said. "It's a very real possibility."

The prospect of expanded passenger rail service is fueled by $8 billion for passenger rail included in the $787 billion federal economic stimulus package. Along with $1.9 billion for new intercity routes in the regular Amtrak budget passed last fall, that's moved a proposed Amtrak route between Iowa City, the Quad Cities and Chicago from something-nice-to-have-someday to attainable reality.
There is a meeting about passenger rail today at 4:30 in Iowa City. It is being held by the Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce at 325 E. Washington St.
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What can Green do for you?

John Deeth shared an article yesterday from World Changing that explains 3 different kinds of environmentalists.

  • Bright green: "any vision of sustainability which does not offer prosperity and well-being will not succeed." This reminded me of Rep. Jay Inslee's book, Apollo’s Fire: Igniting America’s Clean Energy Economy.

  • "Light greens strongly advocate change at the individual level. The thinking is that if you can get people to take small, pleasant steps (by shopping differently, or making changes around the home), they will not only make changes that can begin to make a difference in aggregate, but also begin to clamor for larger transformations."

  • "Dark greens, in contrast, tend to emphasize the need to pull back from consumerism (sometimes even from industrialization itself) and emphasize local solutions, short supply chains and direct connection to the land."

  • Then there are of course the "grays" who deny there's any problem at all. Other names for this group include "browns" and "Republicans.
  • Wednesday, March 11, 2009

    Stewart v. Cramer

    Tuesday, March 10, 2009

    Century of the Common Iowan Turns 3 Years Old

    I glanced at the clock and saw there was just 5 minutes till midnight. I had forgotten that Monday marked the 3rd birthday for Century of the Common Iowan and I only had 5 minutes to put up a post to sum up those 3 years. Yeah right.

    Well here's what I got written in an hour...

    As I look back, it is interesting how the focus of the blog has evolved over those years. In the blogs first year I wrote a lot about issues such as the rising cost of college tuition and Iowa's Brain Drain, immigration, and the need for a trade policy that protects American jobs. Year two was all about the Iowa caucuses. The following year I was able to sit back and watch the primaries play out and lead up to the general election. With the 2008 elections behind us, I have been able to write more about policies and topics such as the emergence of Millennials, social media, education, and the need to invest in a creative economy.

    3 years, 2,226 posts, and over 132,000 visitors later and here we are in the best of times, in the worst of times. Our current economic and political situation find us in a situation where remarkable change can take place (and if it doesn't, it's because we didn't make them do it) . It is time for big ideas. In the coming year I hope to focus on the big ideas that desmoinesdem laid out that I wrote about last month.

    • Clean elections
    • Promoting clean energy solutions
    • Local control of hog confinements
    • Passenger rail
    • Rural broadband.
    These are not new issues. Many I have written about since I started this blog, but now is the time to stop talking about these issues and start seeing real action. On the campaign trail, Barack Obama told the story that one voice can change a room, one room can change a city, one city can change a nation. It is my hope that over the past 3 years, I have been able to change 1 person's viewpoint on these key issues and encouraged 1 person to take action on these key issues.

    I'd like to end by repeating what Rekha Basu wrote about activism that I posted about earlier today..
    Still, it takes courage to be an activist. It requires putting yourself out there in public, daring to take the unpopular position and getting hostile feedback... But those who understand history know well the role activism has played in winning rights and making a more just, humane and accessible America.
    Join in. Post comments. Attend your local Democratic central committee meeting. Call your State Legislators. Get active in a community group or city board. Start your own blog. Heck, run for local office.

    It's time to make a ruckus. Let's go!

    Monday, March 09, 2009

    Activism Takes Courage

    Rekha Basu wrote about activism in her Sunday column in the Des Moines Register.

    Basu talked with Hugh Espey, executive director of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, about Iowa's history of grassroots organizing.

    If Americans have a renewed confidence in the value of grass-roots organizing, that is at least in part because a former community organizer is now in charge of the nation and understands the power of it. But that doesn't mean anyone can let up, says Espey. Enlightened and forward-thinking as any leader may be, you can't rely on good intentions to bring about sweeping change. There are too many competing interests to be juggled, too much pressure from moneyed interests. The leadership must be prodded by organized groups representing labor, health care and farmers, among others. "It's our responsibility," says Espey, "to make this work."

    The other reason activism is making a comeback is the fallout from a souring economy, which has sapped people's ability to keep their homes or feed themselves. That's led many people to pay more attention to government priorities and want to play a role in how they are shaped.

    The activists' tool kit is expanding, too, thanks to e-mail, Facebook and a bevy of other online social-networking techniques, which makes it easier to get the word out about a cause and deliver people to an event on short notice.

    In this line of work, hostility expected

    Still, it takes courage to be an activist. It requires putting yourself out there in public, daring to take the unpopular position and getting hostile feedback. When vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin ridiculed community organizers, she no doubt spoke for many. But those who understand history know well the role activism has played in winning rights and making a more just, humane and accessible America.

    I just finished reading the book Tribes by marketing guru, Seth Godin. Godin says the only thing holding you back from leading is fear. By taking that first step on an issue you feel passionately about you will become a leader and at this time we need leaders.

    Rail is a High Priority in Obama's Budget

    A story heard on the campaign last fall was how Joe Biden took Amtrak home to Delaware from Washington DC each night. That commitment to passenger rail has made it into the budget proposals.

    From the Washington Post...

    High-speed rail has emerged as the cornerstone of Obama's ambitious attempt to remake the nation's transportation agenda, which for half a century has focused primarily on building highways and roads. Nearly half of the $48 billion in stimulus money for transportation projects will go toward rail, buses and other non-highway projects, including $1.3 billion for Amtrak and its successful rapid rail service, Acela. The Transportation Department also would receive $2 billion more under Obama's proposed 2010 budget, most of it for rail and aviation improvements.
    Projects to build a nationwide passenger rail network are being discussed in North Carolina, Virginia, Minnesota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Nevada, California, and even in Iowa.

    I have to give props to Congressman Braley and Boswell for working to get passenger rail in Iowa. Braley has worked to get Amtrack to Davenport and Dubuque, while Boswell wants Amtrack to continue through the state through Iowa City, Des Moines, and to Omaha.

    Sunday, March 08, 2009

    Wanting the President to Fail

    Newt Gingrich responds to the unpatriotic Rush Limbaugh saying he wants the president to fail...

    You've got to want the president to succeed. You're irrational if you don't want the president to succeed. Because if he doesn't succeed the country doesn't succeed... I don't think anyone should want the president of the United States to fail. I want some of his policies to be stopped. But I don't want the president of the United States to fail. I want him to learn new policies.