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America, You Know Not What You Have

First FamilyI could not agree more with this Canadian’s observation of  how America has treated our President.  In my view, it is not just the conservative right (although they have taken disrespect to new lows), but I feel that some on the left have been hyper-critical as well.  This article is an observation of America by a Canadian.

by William Thomas

There was a time not so long ago when Americans, regardless of their political stripes, rallied round their president. Once elected, the man who won the White House was no longer viewed as a republican or democrat, but the President of the United States. The oath of office was taken, the wagons were circled around the country’s borders and it was America versus the rest of the world with the president of all the people at the helm.

Suddenly President Barack Obama, with the potential to become an exceptional president has become the glaring exception to that unwritten, patriotic rule.

Four days before President Obama’s inauguration, before he officially took charge of the American government, Rush Limbaugh boasted publicly that he hoped the president would fail. Of course, when the president fails the country flounders. Wishing harm upon your country in order to further your own narrow political views is selfish, sinister and a tad treasonous as well.

Subsequently, during his State of the Union address, which is pretty much a pep rally for America, an unknown congressional representative from South Carolina, later identified as Joe Wilson, stopped the show when he called the President of the United States a liar. The president showed great restraint in ignoring this unprecedented insult and carried on with his speech. Speaker Nancy Pelosi was so stunned by the slur, she forgot to jump to her feet while clapping wildly, 30 or 40 times after that.

Last spring, President Obama took his wife Michelle to see a play in New York City and republicans attacked him over the cost of security for the excursion. The president can’t take his wife out to dinner and a show without being scrutinized by the political opposition? As history has proven, a president in a theatre without adequate security is a tragically bad idea.

Remember: “Apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?”

At some point, the treatment of President Obama went from offensive to ugly and then to downright dangerous.

The health-care debate, which looked more like extreme fighting in a mud pit than a national dialogue, revealed a very vulgar side of America. President Obama’s face appeared on protest signs white-faced and blood-mouthed in a satanic clown image. In other tasteless portrayals, people who disagreed with his position distorted his face to look like Hitler complete with mustache and swastika.

Odd, that burning the flag makes Americans crazy, but depicting the president as a clown and a maniacal fascist is accepted as part of the new rude America.

Maligning the image of the leader of the free world is one thing, putting the president’s life in peril is quite another. More than once, men with guns were videotaped at the health-care rallies where the president spoke. Again, history shows that letting men with guns get within range of a president has not served America well in the past.

And still the “birthers” are out there claiming Barack Obama was not born in the United States, although public documentation proves otherwise. Hawaii is definitely part of the United States, but the Panama Canal Zone where his electoral opponent Senator John McCain was born? Nobody’s sure.

Last month, a 44-year-old woman in Buffalo was quite taken by President Obama when she met him in a chicken wing restaurant called Duff’s. Did she say something about a pleasure and an honour to meet the man or utter encouraging words for the difficult job he is doing? No. Quote: “You’re a hottie with a smokin’ little body.”

Lady, that was the President of the United States you were addressing, not one of the Jonas Brothers! He’s your president for goodness sakes, not the guy driving the Zamboni at “Monster Trucks On Ice.” Maybe next it’ll be, “Take Your President To A Topless Bar Day.”

In President Barack Obama, Americans have a charismatic leader with a good and honest heart. Unlike his predecessor, he’s a very intelligent leader. And unlike that president’s predecessor, he’s a highly moral man.

In President Obama, Americans have the real deal, the whole package and a leader that citizens of almost every country around the world look to with great envy. Given the opportunity, Canadians would trade our leader, hell, most of our leaders for Obama in a heartbeat.

What America has in Obama is a head of state with vitality and insight and youth. Think about it, Barack Obama is a young Nelson Mandela. Mandela was the face of change and charity for all of Africa but he was too old to make it happen. The great things Obama might do for America and the world could go on for decades after he’s out of office.

America, you know not what you have.

The man is being challenged unfairly, characterized with vulgarity and treated with the kind of deep disrespect to which no previous president was subjected. It’s like the day after electing the first black man to be president, thereby electrifying the world with hope and joy, Americans sobered up and decided the bad old days were better.

President Obama may fail but it will not be a Richard Nixon default fraught with larceny and lies. President Obama, given a fair chance, will surely succeed but his triumph will never come with a Bill Clinton caveat – “if only he’d got control of that zipper.”

Please. Give the man a fair, fighting chance. This incivility toward the leader who won over Americans and gave hope to billions of people around the world that their lives could be enhanced by his example, just naturally has to stop.

(click here to read the entire article)


Labor Update: Wages In Iowa

Iowa Policy Project

Iowa Policy Project

By Colin Gordon
Senior Research Consultant — Iowa Policy Project

Each year at Labor Day, we survey the “State of Working Iowa.” This annual report card examines trends in wages, job growth, and job quality in Iowa. This fall, when the Census Bureau updates its numbers on incomes and health insurance coverage, we will offer a follow-up report on those trends — and their meaning for Iowa’s working families. As in the past, we have devoted close attention through the year (see our monthly “Iowa JobWatch” release) to trends in nonfarm employment because it is an important index of economic progress and particularly of the pace of recovery from the Great Recession. Importantly as well to a public grasp of the meaning of this measure, we have had to deal with manipulation of these numbers by the Governor’s office, which minimizes losses and exaggerates gains. (We have written on the economics and politics of counting jobs, HERE and HERE).

For these reasons, we turn our Labor Day focus on wages in Iowa. What are the long-term trends? What was the impact of the recession (and recovery) on the paychecks of working Iowans? Do age, education, or gender determine whether you gained or lost ground? What are the causes of persistent wage stagnation, and growing wage inequality?

(click here to read the entire article)

Quotes For Labor Day

Labor Movement

Labor Movement

Abraham Lincoln understood what labor meant:
“Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first
existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.” Lincoln’s First Annual Message to Congress,
December 3, 1861.

Harry Truman, maybe not exactly on Labor, but on Labor’s #1 enemy:
“Republicans approve of the American farmer, but they are willing to help him go broke. They stand four-square for the American home–but not for housing. They are strong for labor–but they are stronger for restricting labor’s rights. They favor minimum wage–the smaller the minimum wage the better. They endorse educational opportunity for all–but they won’t spend money for teachers or for schools. They think modern medical care and hospitals are fine–for people who can afford them. They consider electrical power a great blessing–but only when the private power companies get their rake-off. They think American standard of living is a fine thing–so long as it doesn’t spread to all the people. And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it.”

From Barack Obama:
It was the labor movement that helped secure so much of what we take for granted today. The 40-hour work week, the minimum wage, family leave, health insurance, Social Security, Medicare, retirement plans. The cornerstones of the middle-class security all bear the union label.

Those who would destroy or further limit the rights of organized labor–those who would cripple collective bargaining or prevent organization of the unorganized–do a disservice to the cause of democracy.

Fifty years or so ago the American Labor Movement was little more than a group of dreamers, and look at it now. From coast to coast, in factories, stores, warehouse and business establishments of all kinds, industrial democracy is at work.

Employees, represented by free and democratic trade unions of their own choosing, participate actively in determining their wages, hours and working conditions. Their living standards are the highest in the world. Their job rights are protected by collective bargaining agreements. They have fringe benefits that were unheard of less than a generation ago.

Our labor unions are not narrow, self-seeking groups. They have raised wages, shortened hours and provided supplemental benefits. Through collective bargaining and grievance procedures, they have brought justice and democracy to the shop floor. But their work goes beyond their own jobs, and even beyond our borders.

Our unions have fought for aid to education, for better housing, for development of our national resources and for saving the family-sized farms. They have spoken, not for narrow self-interest, but for the public interest and for the people
– John F. Kennedy, Aug. 30, 1960

Jay Gould
I need to remind folks that there is another side of the fence. I think the infamous Jay Gould quote on his disdain for laborers really encapsulates capital’s feelings on Labor:
“I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.”

Sunday Funday: Labor Day Edition

Happy Labor DayTraditionally this was the start of political campaigns and the end of summer vacation for school age kids. Now politics goes all year long and nearly every aspect of our lives has been politicized by the right, including how we choose to use our own bodies and what we believe or don’t believe spiritually. Kids have been in school for weeks now. No doubt the 12 month school year is probably on the horizon.

Labor is having somewhat of a resurgence, but is far from recovering from the blow delivered by the Gipper, one of America’s worst presidents ever.

Many of today’s questions will focus on labor, to remind us that labor has never had an easy row to hoe.

1) In a meeting that just came to light this week, Tea Party senate candidate Joni Ernst paid homage to who for making her campaign viable?

2) 1842 is crucial to labor history in the US. In the case Commonwealth v. Hunt settled the legality of what entity?

3) An American was killed last weekend fighting for ISIS in Syria. He had what patriotic sounding name?

4) Samuel Gompers is one of the most recognized names in Labor history. What Labor organization did Gompers head?

5) A reclassification by the Drug Enforcement Administration will make it much harder for patients to get what popular and addicting pain killer?

6) What Iowa born Labor leader was head of the mine workers union from 1920 to 1960 and helped form and the lead the CIO?

7) The largest university in Iowa welcomed over 34,000 students last week. Which university is Iowa’s largest?

8) Governor Branstad, in an odd linkage, blamed layoffs at Deere on who?

9) In 1955, a merger of major Labor unions brought together what two unions?

10) In what may become known as the “Branstad Tax” the governor proposed what to replace the gas tax?

11) A poll commissioned by two Republican groups found what demographic thought Republicans to be “stuck in the past”,”intolerant” and “lacking compassion?”

12) A proposed merger will join what Canadian fast fooder with what American fast fooder?

13) Of all the silly things to cover this week, ESPN had a segment on the after work showering habits of what person?

14) Can you name the 3 largest unions in the US based on number of members?

15) Using government powers to make sure an organization does what it says it will. What Iowa elected official wants the government to monitor the ALS foundation to verify it uses money raised by the ice bucket challenge for research?

My project for this weekend is to get all available immigration documentation about my grandparents in case Republicans win both houses. I am only 3rd generation American and I am not sure if that will be enough under their auspices. If they cut the date off at 1900, I may have a problem.

1) Charles and David Koch and the group of funders they put together.

2) unions

3) Douglas MacArthur McCain

4) American Federation of Labor (AFL).

5) Vicodin

6) John L. Lewis

7) Iowa State

8) the EPA. Odd for many reasons. Remember Joni Ernst has signed on to oppose renewable energy with Exxon.

9) AFL and the CIO

10) a sales tax on gas.

11) Women

12) Tim Horton’s (Canada) and Burger King (US). This is so Burger King can avoid US taxes. So I avoid Burger King.

13) Michael Sam, the rookie pro footballer who came out as gay.

14) The NEA, the SEIU and AFSCME

15) Charles Grassley. Look out for the Tea Party with attitudes like that, Chuck!

LTTE: Branstad Avoids Debates

letters to the editorThe following LTTE was submitted by Randy Naber of Muscatine. Randy is a retired teacher and a member of the Muscatine school board and a bowler.

We want to encourage folks to please use the letters sections of their newspapers to try to get folks to understand that all of us have a stake in this election. Turning any governmental body to Republicans is not in the interest of the average Iowan.

“If I were running for my sixth term of Governor of Iowa, and I was telling the citizens of Iowa how proud I am of my record, I would welcome debating my opponent, Jack Hatch, every chance I could.

If I were running for my sixth term of Governor of Iowa, I would be debating my opponent, Jack Hatch, in every media market in Iowa. I would not limit the debates to three of the smallest markets in Iowa.

If I were running for my sixth term of Governor of Iowa and I have repeatedly said how important and ready my Lt. Governor was, I would have her debating her opponent, Monica Vernon, every chance they could.


If I did not want the voters of Iowa to hear that my last term was riddled with scandals and my attempts to limit free and independent judgments and decisions, I would limit the number of debates.

If I did not want the voters of Iowa to hear how my opponent, Jack Hatch, has new, fresh ideas on how to strengthen Iowa’s economy and move it forward while improving the economic security of Iowa’s middle class, I would conduct the debates in the smallest markets limiting the number of potential voters yearning for change.

If I did not want voters of Iowa to hear my opponent’s choice for Lt. Governor, Monica Vernon, debate my Lt. Governor, I would veto the idea of the Lt. Governors debating each other.”

Labor Day. What Ever Happened to Labor?

iowa federation of labor
2014 is the 120th national celebration of labor in the United States. During that time, labor has seldom had true respect in this country. The way history is taught in this country many folks believe that labor strife ended with Samuel Gompers and the advent of Labor Day. But as any true historian will tell you, Labor Day was merely a recognition of the power the labor movement had achieved, but was hardly a cessation in the war against labor as waged by the ownership class in this country.

Since 1894, the US has seen constant and continuing attempts by capitalists to incapacitate and neuter the labor movement in this country. Considering that all of us but those at the very top are laborers of some sort, this is a war on most Americans and their ability to earn a living and provide for their families.

Over the decades labor won some battles. When one thinks of what has become a “standard” work week, one thinks of 40 hours, 8 hours a day with a couple of coffee breaks and a lunch period, with overtime above 40 hours in a week. Many take such an arrangement for granted, almost as if it always existed. However, as many have been learning since the ascendancy of Ronald Reagan, none of what we take as standard is written in stone. All these rules and many more which we have come to believe as standard were won through hard negotiation and job actions which were often met with violence and loss of jobs.

Since the ascendancy of Reagan, the balance of power between labor and capital has dramatically shifted to the capital side of the coin. I daresay there has never been a time when Labor was in charge. For a time there was some balance, but the election of Reagan put an end to that.

Whether the Reagan administration was looking for a battle against labor to hang its hat on, or if the strike by the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) was actually a narrow battle of the day, the firing of of the strikers by Reagan became a true watershed moment in Labor relations. In short, Labor has never recovered and management has seen victory after victory especially in congresses which have become increasingly management friendly.

To keep the price of labor low, which is one of the major goals, labor must be treated as a commodity and as such an excess must always be available. This is the logic behind Republicans, acting for management, pushing legislation that aids moving jobs offshore, trying to raise retirement age, cuts back on retirement benefits and even the ridiculous suggestion to put children back into the labor force.

The scariest recent development in the labor front is automation. Automation has of course been around for years, but with the digital revolution the possibility of replacing jobs never before thought possible. It is not hard to imagine 3D printers replacing some highly skilled jobs. Even McDonald’s claims that if their cost of labor gets too high it will make automating their restaurants cost effective.

The Labor movement has always been steeped in conflict, usually against management, but sometimes within its own walls. The future looks quite challenging. Even if you are in management or are a professional who believes you are untouchable, you would be smart to keep an eye on and support Labor’s struggles. What happens to them will eventually happen to you. When once you got raises and benefits as Labor’s fortunes rose, so, too, will your fortunes fall as theirs do.

ALERT: Families Should Call DNR Before Swimming During Labor Day Weekend

August 28th, 2014


Media Contact: Matt Sinovic

Phone: (515) 423-0530

An alarming number of Iowa beaches are rated ‘Swimming Not Recommended’ due to E. coli — Iowans can call (319) 353-2613 for the latest swimming advisories

DES MOINES — Citizens for a Healthy Iowa today issued a message of caution to every family that is considering a visit to Iowa’s beaches and lakes this Labor Day weekend. A number of beaches are rated ‘Swimming Not Recommended’ by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) due to high levels of E. coli. At least one dozen beaches received that rating, and nearly fifty are local beaches with no information about the level of E. coli available.

“My children and I used to swim in the Raccoon River. Now there is no way I would let my grandkids swim in the Raccoon River or at our beaches without checking the beach safety hotline first,” said Mike Delaney, President of Citizens for a Healthy Iowa. “Every family should be aware of the dangerous levels of E. coli in many of our lakes before planning their Labor Day activities. Under Governor Branstad’s failed leadership, we’ve seen our water quality drop tremendously. From our kitchen sink to the beaches we swim in, Iowa water just isn’t what it used to be.”

With at least one heavily polluted lake, river or stream in each of Iowa’s 99 counties – over 600 impaired waterways in all – Iowa’s rivers and lakes are more polluted than they’ve ever been. Governor Branstad vetoed $20 million in state funding that would have provided additional resources for the DNR & IDALS to improve water quality and prevent pollution from Iowa farms from getting into Iowa waterways.

Citizens for a Healthy Iowa recommends that families swimming at any of Iowa’s beaches should call the Iowa DNR’s Beach Monitoring Hotline at (319) 353-2613 for the latest swimming advisories.

Citizens for a Healthy Iowa is an Iowa-based non-profit organization that works to promote sustainable public health, agricultural, economic development and environmental policy.

Friday In Iowa: Writing In Public

Photo Credit - Wikimedia Commons

Photo Credit – Wikimedia Commons

“I’ve been reading the paper lately,” said Kevin Samek to the Solon City Council on Aug. 6 during the citizens speak agenda item. “I’m a little concerned about the north sewer trunk.”

Samek had been reading my newspaper articles about the council and this long-standing community issue.

He went on to express his concerns about the way council was handling finances regarding the sewer line, and on a second topic said that public safety could be improved on Main Street by lowering the speed limit. He was respectful and brief.

Council addressed his concerns by lowering the speed limit from 25 to 20 miles per hour, and by unsuccessfully attempting to reach agreement with a developer over the sewer line at their Aug. 20 meeting. Samek filed to run for city council shortly afterward.

Two things about this story explain why some of us write in public.

Samek read my newspaper articles, and then did something about it, first by speaking to council, and then by deciding to run for public office. Informing and activating people to take action is what public writing is about. Whether we write for a newspaper, a blog, in social media, or appear on television or radio, the purpose is similar. We attempt to say something meaningful to readers and urge them to action.

The second important part of this story is that someone was there to witness the work of the city council and report on it. Often I am the only person seated in the gallery at council meetings and if I don’t write about them, it is doubtful anyone outside government would. Being there and having a point of view is important to restoring our Democracy. Writing publicly about what we witness is equally so. This is true not only for our government, but for much else in society.

As my summer job with Blog for Iowa ends, I urge readers to get involved with community life and take progressive action. We each have a unique perspective that is needed. There is a world out there and not enough people witnessing its reality and sharing it in public. Or, as Saul Bellow said more artfully, “there’s the most extraordinary, unheard-of poetry buried in America, but none of the conventional means known to culture can even begin to extract it.”

My hope is that people read what I wrote this summer and were moved to do something about issues that are important to them. As the political season turns to the fall campaign thanks for reading my summer posts. My advice is to never give up.

Iowa’s Second District Congressional Debate

Here is last night’s debate between Congressman Dave Loebsack and Mariannette Miller Meeks. For those following these races since 2005, Loebsack gets stronger each time he faces an opponent.

Favorite Question by Dean Borg: “Are you running against the Obama administration or are you running against Congressman Loebsack.”
She had no answer.

Medea Benjamin Comes To Iowa

Medea Benjamin

Medea Benjamin

Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink, is known world-wide as a tireless campaigner for peace and justice. She will be a presenter at the Drones Symposium at Grinnell College on Wednesday, Sept. 10, at 4:15 p.m. Prior to that, she will lead a rally at 10 a.m. at the gates of the 132nd Iowa Air National Guard at the north side of the Des Moines airport.

The 132nd is being converted to a piloting and control center for Reaper Drones. Armed with Hellfire missiles, these drones may be used to assassinate people, combatants and civilians alike, in countries with whom the US is not at war.

Medea is the author of Drone Warfare: Killing By Remote Control.

What: Rally at the Iowa Air National Guard 132nd Base (3100 McKinley Ave, Des Moines)
Date: Wednesday, Sept. 10
Time: 10 until 10:45 a.m.
Speaker: Medea Benjamin