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July 2014
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Media Matters for America is a Web-based, not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media.

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*FAIR is a national media watch group that offers well-documented criticism of media bias and censorship

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Save the Internet

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Sports And Net Neutrality

Obama Throwing First Pitch - Photo Credit

Obama Throwing First Pitch – Photo Credit

“Fast lanes would serve only one purpose,” said Michael J. Mellis of MLB (Major League Baseball) Advanced Media LP in a public comment to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regarding net neutrality. “For Broadband ISPs to receive an economic windfall.”

Major League Baseball objects to efforts to prioritize Internet traffic, and when baseball talks, politicians listen. Mellis frames the debate over net neutrality in easy to understand terms. Read the entire letter here.

“MLB has a vested interest in seeing the web remain as open as possible, wrote John McDuling in a July 28 blog post on Quartz. “Yet the letter is no less persuasive, demolishing the ISPs arguments that fast lanes are needed to fund infrastructure upgrades as ‘unsupported by the facts’ (the industry is churning out profits and enjoys 60 percent profit margins on broadband, it argues).”

The White House made its position on net neutrality clear in a May 15 statement by the press secretary:

“The President has made clear since he was a candidate that he strongly supports net neutrality and an open Internet.  As he has said, the Internet’s incredible equality– of data, content, and access to the consumer– is what has powered extraordinary economic growth and made it possible for once-tiny sites like eBay or Amazon to compete with brick and mortar behemoths.

The FCC is an independent agency, and we will carefully review their proposal. The FCC’s efforts were dealt a real challenge by the Court of Appeals in January, but Chairman Wheeler has said his goal is to preserve an open Internet, and we are pleased to see that he is keeping all options on the table. We will be watching closely as the process moves forward in hopes that the final rule stays true to the spirit of net neutrality.

The President is looking at every way to protect a free and open Internet, and will consider any option that might make sense.”

More than 227,000 comments on protecting and promoting the open Internet were filed with the FCC before the July 18 deadline. Let’s hope Major League Baseball’s arguments score a home run.

Iowa’s Nuclear Challenge

Wayback Machine

Wayback Machine

Carolyn Heising doesn’t get it about nuclear power. Iowans don’t want more of it, and there is a nascent movement to shut down the Duane Arnold Energy Center in Palo for good when the ten-year extension of its license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) expires in 2024.

Heising, an engineering professor at Iowa State University, gets on her soapbox from time to time as she did in last week’s Des Moines Register. She drug out the same old sawhorses about the great potential of nuclear power. It is like a trip in the Wayback Machine to the Atoms for Peace days when there was an effort to harness the energy of nuclear chain reactions for civilian use. Atoms for Peace proved to be unsuccessful, and unsustainable over the long term, contrary to Heising’s assertions about recent developments.

The challenge of nuclear power in Iowa is how to eliminate it as a source of electricity in favor of a system that makes more sense. The environment for doing so is primed.

When MidAmerican Energy advanced their nuclear power study in the Iowa legislature, an unintended consequence for them was to create deep and diverse opposition to nuclear power in Iowa. As part of the campaign to stop nuclear power in Iowa, the BFIA history of it is worth considering here. We did stop MidAmerican Energy, but what we did then will not work going forward.

Unlike Ms. Heising, we can’t continue to drag out the same sawhorses.

Our loose coalition of people from every background and political outlook should pull for the long term. Specifically, we can’t beat the same drum of more conservation, more solar and wind, more research and development, and more storage capacity. Distributed generation is also an important part of the future, and some RECs now offer net metering. All of these tactics to meet electricity demand are known, and need some promotion. However, any campaign to stop new nuclear power generation must think outside the box: these jeremiads need to be retired in favor of something better.

A positive campaign to eliminate nuclear power must include a discussion of the legitimate concerns of the regulated utilities. Issues with regions, contracts, capital investments already made, and an established infrastructure must be acknowledged and dealt with. There is a lot for anti-nuclear power advocates to do on this front.

Projects like the Rock Island Clean Line can’t resolve the issues with regard to the grid and its related nodes, financial trading and diversity. Understanding the grid is complicated, and another one-off in a grid of one-off agreements doesn’t make sense for the future.

Ms. Heising has had her say, but the truth will out. Global warming has happened. Climate change is real. Burning coal and natural gas is a problem. Where the professor and I disagree is in developing an approach that involves users more directly in distributed generation, and excludes new nuclear power, coal and natural gas.

Mother Nature will let us know if we are proceeding fast enough to solve the climate crisis. A dalliance with nuclear power would be like Scarlett O’Hara asking, “where shall I go? What shall I do?” as Rhett Butler leaves. We know how that ended. We should also know there are better answers than more nuclear power.

#NoNukes Roundup

This video by comedian John Oliver is making the rounds of District of Columbia nuclear disarmament folks today, and is worth sharing.

Eric Schlosser, author of Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Incident, and the Illusion of Safety plays a cameo role in the clip, and is a likely source of some of the information about the the problems with the U.S. nuclear complex. Read the New York Times Book Review here.

Iowa Marks 100 Years Since WWI

WW II Veteran

WW II Veteran

Two Ignominious Anniversaries

This summer we have to decide how to digest two anniversaries; July 28, which marks 100 years since the beginning of WWI in 1914; and, Aug. 7, which marks 50 years since Congress approved the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in 1964.

All wars are evil, and all could have been avoided if individuals, tribes, leaders, and countries had practiced common decency and common sense. But some wars are more vile, more unjustified than your run-of-the-mill war. WWI and the Vietnam War both fit that description.

What might have been settled with some arm-wrestling contests or sword fights among royal cousins in 1914 instead led to the deaths of 10 million soldiers and six million civilians. Lloyd George, British Prime Minister said, “If people really knew, the war would be stopped tomorrow. But of course they don’t know, and can’t know.” Not only was the war the most devastating the world had ever seen, it did not lead to peace. In spite of the widespread horror at the carnage of WWI , WWII grew out of the seeds of WWI.

Fast forwarding from 1914 to Aug. 7, 1964, we witness the U.S. Senate voting 88-2 to approve the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, henceforth used as the legal basis for the U.S. war in Vietnam. The resolution was based on lies and pretense– history is clear on this.

The two senators, Morse and Gruening, who had the courage to say no, should be honored as heroes. Many have visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall in D.C., which lists the 58,286 US troops who died as a result of the war. It’s about 150 yards long. If a similar wall were built for the Vietnamese who were killed in the war, the wall would stretch for miles. People are still dying today from the Agent Orange and land mines of that war.

The anniversaries are an opportunity to understand our past and thus more effectively wage peace in our war-torn present.

Braley-Ernst In The Heat Of Summer

Political Pizza Server at RAGBRAI

Political Pizza Server at RAGBRAI

At BFIA we keep calm and help progressive Democrats win elections.

Sweet corn is in, first tomatoes are being harvested, and RAGBRAI just finished. We are in the summer doldrums of this midterm election campaign, where the real action is going with statewide canvasses by the Democratic coordinated campaign. Republicans are still playing catch up.

Despite tremendous corporate and social media clamor, there doesn’t appear to be much going in the Bruce Braley-Joni Ernst race to replace U.S. Senator Tom Harkin when he retires at the end of this term. Campaign and political operatives might argue otherwise, but that’s what they do.

Speaking of Harkin, he is doing what he normally does, and made a surprise appearance on Saturday at a Kevin Kinney fund raiser in Senate District 39. At the county fair last Thursday, I was asking Kinney where was Harkin? Question answered. There are some things that are consistent about Iowa politics, and we will miss Tom Harkin when he retires.

Ben Jacobs at The Daily Beast, but he wrote an interesting article titled, “The Bruce Braley-Joni Ernst Race Is Iowa’s Ugliest Senate Campaign Ever.” Read it here if you have the stomach for it.

Maggie Haberman at Politico wrote one titled, “Struggling Bruce Braley Shakes Up Campaign.” She wrote, “Iowa Democratic Senate hopeful Bruce Braley has shaken up his campaign, parting ways with admaker Larry Grisolano and pollster Diane Feldman after Republican Joni Ernst emerged from the primary with more momentum than anticipated.”

This race has always been neck and neck from the grassroots view, and Haberman’s copy’s ideological bent has been typical of corporate media. Of course the Republicans assert Ernst has already won the race. Poppycock, and they know it.

Whether it’s poll-tested or not, it makes a weary day to constantly hear about how much money the Koch Brothers are pouring into the election, so a reprieve from that, though unlikely, would be welcome with the Braley staff changes.

If you haven’t, read the BFIA piece about the Braley-Ernst race here.

The real work of the campaign won’t make the corporate or social media, in fact, little will be heard about it unless one is on the list of Democratic volunteers. Grassroots organizing has been the Democratic advantage, and while RPI chair Jeff Kaufmann believes he can catch up, it remains to be seen. They have been playing catch up since the 2006 midterms.

Summer is a time for county fairs, time at a beach, and harvesting the garden. A lot is going on in the Democratic campaign that you’ll never hear about on social media. It is important to remember that, and get involved with the campaign as summer turns to fall and school begins in three or four weeks.

If you can, donate to Bruce Braley’s campaign here.

Newton Daily News Editor Fired For “Being Christian”

The first amendment

The first amendment

Ran across this story Thursday. A portion is reprinted here. The whole story plus other links are at the link.This story has a lot of twists and looks to me like one that may well wend its way to the Supreme Court. With the makeup of the current Court, that is a real concern.

An Iowa newspaper editor who was fired after posting an anti-LGBT blog post is irate over the firing and claims that his religious freedom was violated.

Media critic Jim Romenesko reported on his blog Wednesday that Bob Eschliman, former editor of Newton Daily News, filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claiming that he was fired for being a Christian.

Eschliman — who refers to himself on his Facebook page as an “Evil Conservative” — is being represented by an attorney from the Liberty Institute, a Christian law practice dedicated to injecting faith into public policy and to fighting efforts by the courts to separate matters of church and state.

The former editor was fired in May after publishing an anti-LGBT rant on his personal blog, in which he railed against “the LGBTQXYZ crowd and the Gaystapo,” claiming that LGBT people of faith are attempting to rewrite the Bible to “to make their sinful nature ‘right with God.’”

Eschliman expressed an opinion publicly although not while he was working. Can he not express his personal opinions, especially religious ones, publicly without fearing loss of job and benefits? On the other hand, people in management positions can be fired without cause. Does the owner of the business not have the right(?) to pick employees at the highest levels.

Just a few weeks ago the SCOTUS told us that corporations had a right to impose their religious beliefs as part of the employment contract. Does it not also have a right to remove employees whose religious beliefs come in conflict with business practices? The guarantee of religious freedom is that the government will not interfere with a person’s freedom or create a state religion. It says nothing about private businesses. During my working days our company decided we would be a 7 day a week, 24 hour a day operation. When one man objected saying Sunday was a sacred day for him, the boss told him “Well., I guess you have a decision to make then.”

One issue that must loom large in the background is the effect of Mr. Eschliman’s now known religious conservatism may have on the business. Were I a subscriber, I would most likely drop the paper because I would think that the editor would be putting his slant into news stories. Beyond that there may be an effect on advertiser orders. Advertisers simply quit advertising in that paper fearing that they may be considered guilty by association for supporting this paper with its business.

Once upon a time in America (settle back, it’s story time) printing presses were in great supply. If a person had an opinion, they could buy a printing press and publish and distribute it. Nowadays our comparable technology would be the internet. As of today the internet remains open and neutral. If Mr. Eschliman has an opinion that he feels he must share with others, he can pay a small fee and grab a chunk of internet real estate to sound off.

If net neutrality is squashed by the FCC (and that is what I expect) then outlets for dissenting voices may well be choked by “the market.”

While I may disagree with Mr. Eschliman’s views – and I certainly do – to me it is much more important that he and any others who feel they need to express themselves in public have an outlet on the internet.

Sunday Funday – Rummage In The Ramp Time.

whoops make that 2014

whoops make that 2014

One of my favorite events of the year is on once more. The giant garage sale known as “Rummage in the Ramp” started Friday and continues until next Sunday, August 3rd. If you are unfamiliar with this event, it is something unique to Iowa City. Apartment leases in Iowa City go from August one year through July of the next year. As students and others move out, they often leave behind some pretty decent furniture.

A few years back someone had the brilliant idea to sell the stuff rather than bury it in a landfill. Over the years the City has expanded to taking donations of usable items from anyone. And thus you have the makings of a giant garage sale. New stuff is added daily, so if you have an item in mind you may want to chck back daily. Under the Chauncey Swan parking ramp by the City rec center. More info here:

Were you paying attention?

1) They can’t do anything, but Texas Governor Rick Perry is sending who to the border?

2) A Florida jury last week leveled tobacco company RJ Reynolds with a judgment worth how much in damages for a tobacco related death?

3) Deaths last week included this usually unflappable hero of TV series and movies. Who was this solid lifelong liberal, best known as Maverick?

4) The FDA issued a warning that the powdered form of what common substance – even a teaspoon – could be fatal following the death of an Ohio teenager?

5) Two big annual events in Iowa had their culmination yesterday, one in Davenport and one in Guttenburg. What are these two events?

6) In the crazy middle East, Israel shelled what thought to be safe building, killing 4 and wounding 16?

7) This June joined May as a record setter for what?

8) Once more acting because Republicans in Congress refuse to do their jobs, President Obama signed an executive order banning discrimination by federal contractors against what group?

9) Jack Hatch blasted Governor Brandstad last week for turning down what?

10) According to LULAC spokesman Joe Henry, how many Central American refugee kids have come to Iowa (+-25)?

11) In northeast China the largest microraptor dinosaur fossil, Changyuraptor, was found. It had what unusual feature?

12) Tuesday two federal courts issued conflicting rulings about an hour apart on the legality of what?

13) The Johnson County, Iowa Board of Supervisors passed resolution Thursday to encourage the testing of what concept car in Johnson County?

14) History you never hear in school department. In 1919, the worst of the “Red Summer” race riots begins in what midwest city on July 27, 1919?

15) Republicans came unglued when the FAA banned American airline companies from landing in what airport due to danger from war?

And these are just a few of the happenings this week. Sixty-one years ago, the Korean War ended, but just 11 years later President Johnson sent 5,000 more “advisors” into Viet Nam signalling the involvement buildup yet to come. Oy Vey!


1) National Guard troops.

2) $23.6 billion

3) James Garner

4) caffeine

5) In Davenport, the annual Bix Biederbeck celebration. In Guttenburg RAGBRAI ended.

6) a hospital

7) global temperature.
The average temperature over global surfaces for June 2014 was 1.3 degrees above the 20th-century average of 59.9 degrees. In May, the Earth’s temperature was 1.33 degrees above the average of 58.6 degrees.


9) $1 million grant to study solar applications in Iowa

10) 139 (114 – 154 range)

11) Four wings (and feathers)

12) ACA exchanges

13) driverless cars

14) Chicago – much of our labor and race history is seldom taught

15) Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv.

August next week which means (here it comes) back to school time!

Iowa Job Growth — Steadily Slow

iowa policy project

The Iowa Policy Project today (July 18) released the following statement by Executive Director Mike Owen about the latest numbers:

“Stability in Iowa’s job market received a boost in June from public-sector jobs. Despite a 4,300-job increase in government jobs, a mixed performance in other sectors combined for a slight decline, leaving Iowa up 3,100 for the month.

“Iowa’s overall modest growth of 1,800 jobs per month during the past year is about the same pace of the previous 12 months. At this rate it would take about three years or more for Iowa to completely recover for the losses from the recession, according to calculations by the Economic Policy Institute.”

Job Growth Perspective
Governor Branstad set a goal of 200,000 new jobs over five years. Iowa’s economy has produced 73,400 net new jobs through the first 41 months of his term. To add the remaining 126,600 jobs, Iowa would need to add 6,700 new jobs per month over the next 19 months, compared to a pace of 1,800 for the first 41 months.

An approach more relevant to evaluating economic progress is to look at the job numbers in the context of recovery from the last national recession. Iowa is now above pre-recession job levels — but those jobs serve a 4.8 percent larger population, according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI). The net job gain since the December 2007 start of the recession is 24,700 — but 72,800 were needed by now to keep up with population growth. Therefore, the state shows a job deficit of 48,100 jobs.

Iowa job deficit 4/30/2014 per IPP
Graph reflects Economic Policy Institute Analysis
Hmmmm……. This sounds nothing like the Branstad commercials I have seen. Is he still fabricating his numbers?

“We Are Willing To Fight For It!”

Ladies and Gentlemen, Senator Elizabeth Warren at Netroots Nation last Saturday:

If Reublicans take control of the senate, our country will once more be stopped from moving forward. Worse yet we will most likely go through two years of money wasting impeachment hearings or nearly as bad, committees clogged with nothing but investigations on Obama (and Hillary Clinton by proxy).

Elizabeth Warren lays out in a short space most of what the Democratic Party stands for:
- Addressing the Climate Crisis
- Equality
- regulation of Wall Street
- Good, affordable Education through post secondary.
- decent paying jobs and equality of pay
- Science
- net neutrality
- Social Security and Medicare.
- Women

Give a few hours and a few dollars to help Bruce Braley. Iowa simply can’t afford to send another far right wing Republican to Washington. Also, do not forget Dave Loebsack, Staci Appel, Jim Mowrer (to beat the crazy King) and Pat Murphy. Iowa desperately need to fully retire our part-time, double-dipping, scandal ridden governor and put a man with vision, Jack Hatch, in his place.

A few dollars, a few hours and we can do it!


Feeding The World–Iowa-Style

Local Food Processing Plant

Local Food Processing Plant

Iowa Can’t Feed the World;
Local Producers Can’t Either

The frequent jeremiad of big agriculture is about propping them up so Iowa farmers can feed the world. Political speeches at the recent opening of a first of its kind biorational manufacturing facility in Osage typify the pabulum.

“You can count on Iowa to feed the world; and more and more, to fuel the world,” said Governor Branstad last month at Valent BioSciences, a Sumitomo Chemical Company subsidiary.

“The world is going to demand more production and demand it in a way that is more environmentally responsible,” said Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey. (Read more about what’s going on in Osage here and here).

Valent BioSciences has had an Iowa footprint, so the biorational plant economic development expense has not received much public scrutiny. The author worked with employees at the company during a previous career, and they were unique in Iowa, and great people to work with. The new project is expected to create 400 temporary and 89 permanent jobs in Osage.

When compared to the botched economic development of the Orascom fertilizer plant in Wever (now called the Iowa Fertilizer Company), things went well for this plant start-up. One has to respect the fact that the Branstad economic development team has gotten better at controlling their messaging.

It is hard to know if biorational pesticides will be good for the long term future of agriculture. While everyone gathered for the opening ceremony in Osage must have believed they will be, the key to feeding a global population expected to increase to 9 billion people is growing more food locally. That’s where BFIA takes issue with the political pabulum about agriculture.

It makes no sense to focus only on food production in Iowa, or for that matter, California’s Central Valley, south Florida, Mexico, or anywhere where large scale production is prevalent. That includes Earthbound Farm Organic, purveyors of organic carrots, celery and other vegetables in Iowa supermarkets.

All we need can be grown much closer to home in temperate climates, and each step we take toward more local food production has a lower carbon footprint. Here’s the rub. Local food producers do good work, but have been unable to create a scalable model. Scalability is often anathema to their goals in farming.

A couple of years ago, State Senator Joe Bolkcom admonished a group of local food producers after research and development checks had been cut by the state to several large corporations. His advice was that research and development money was available from the state for local foods producers, if they could get their act together. Other Iowa legislators, including Representatives Isenhart, Staed, and Kaufmann have expressed a willingness to help local food producers in the legislature. The prerequisite is that local farmers align enough to give legislators something they can work with. It hasn’t happened despite some efforts by the Farmers Union, Practical Farmers of Iowa and others.

That’s where large companies like Orascom and Sumitomo Corporation have an advantage. They can create large, specialized projects because of their global perspective and footprint. That’s at the opposite end of the spectrum from local food production, and runs against the grain. It is an open question whether local producers will get their collective acts together.

What’s the resolution? Not sure there is one yet, but the world is seeking a solution to hunger and a growing population. There are small local foods projects on every habitable continent, but it is not enough.

As a community, we must move beyond politics, and begin working toward increased local food production. To do that, we have to think beyond our personal kitchens, farms and retail establishments, something hard to do in America’s consumer culture.