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Howard Dean Is Right

DFA10_GillibrandWe don’t normally post every e-mail that comes around from DFA. But we’re making an exception during the month of April because as you know, it is the 10-year anniversary of Democracy for America, the grassroots organization that grew out of Howard Dean’s presidential campaign and also the tenth anniversary of Blog for Iowa, one of the original blogs of the state DFA chapters. 

One of the best things that DFA does is something called the “Dean Dozen.” These are progressive candidates for office that the organization has selected to throw its weight behind.  President Obama was one of the original “Dean Dozen” candidates. Elizabeth Warren, Tammy Baldwin and Kirsten Gillibrand are also on the list.

Here is Kirsten Gillibrand’s inspirational story.

When I heard Democracy for America was turning 10 years old, I couldn’t wait to reach out to celebrate with all of you. After all, DFA’s story is, in so many ways, my story too.

When I first ran for Congress in 2006, I was trying to do the impossible: to unseat a four-term Republican incumbent in a district that Republicans had owned for all but 4 years since 1913. A local group of amazing Dean-inspired activists won me DFA’s endorsement that year, and their hard work on the ground helped send me to the House of Representatives, which set me up to join the Senate in 2009.

Since then, DFA has been a reliable partner of mine on so many important issues. During the battle for health care reform in 2010, when I urged Majority Leader Harry Reid to make a public option a reality, DFA members secured support for the move from 119 House members. And when the Senate looked poised to unfairly jack up student loan rates, Sen. Tammy Baldwin and I worked with DFA to collect 35,423 signatures in support of keeping student loan interest rates low — a move that helped pressure Congress into keeping the rates from doubling.

I love working with DFA because through the years, they’ve proven that their members can move Congress on issues that matter. On this milestone anniversary, let’s show DFA how much their passionate advocacy has meant to us: Please give DFA a $10 birthday gift today — one dollar for every year they’ve fought for progressive change.

Of all of the fights DFA and I have shared, none demonstrates our ability to change the world together in real, tangible ways better than the quest for gay rights. The year I took office, the backlash against the marriage equality movement was in full swing. States across the country were rushing to pass same-sex marriage bans — and 18 of them had succeeded. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was upheld in federal courts 5 times, guaranteeing continued discrimination against LGBT Americans by our armed forces.

Fast forward to 2009. While the battles over marriage in the states raged on, I had become a leading advocate for repealing DADT in Congress — and DFA was right there with me. While I worked to find the votes for repeal in the Senate, Gov. Howard Dean and DFA members petitioned President Obama to act to end the unfair policy. And when the Administration stepped in to clear the way for a repeal vote in 2010, DFA went to work building pressure on vulnerable members of Congress and helping us secure a victory.

Next up, the Defense of Marriage Act. While the tide against marriage was starting to turn in the states, DOMA was still preventing completely legal same-sex marriages from being recognized by the federal government. I turned to DFA, and together we ran a campaign to increase awareness of the effects of DOMA and to build support for a complete repeal. More than 40,000 DFA members signed our petition. It was an amazing demonstration of the momentum marriage equality was gaining nationally — momentum that would soon lead to DOMA being overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013.

Today, it is a different world for LGBT Americans than it was when I was elected. The military now welcomes soldiers regardless of their sexual orientation. Seventeen states and counting have legalized same-sex marriage. More Americans now support gay marriage than oppose it — and the momentum for equality is showing no signs of slowing down.

This is what true progressive change looks like. And every step of the way, DFA has been instrumental in making that change happen. Howard Dean is right: together, we really are unstoppable.

Join me in thanking DFA for 10 years of making a difference by donating $10 — one dollar for each game-changing year — to support DFA’s important work in the decade to come.

Thank you for being a part of this incredible progressive team,

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
Donate today

Sunday Funday – Smells Like A Lily Edition

The_Thinker,_Auguste_RodinToday is Easter – look outside. If it is raining, legend has it that it will rain for the next seven consecutive Sundays. This is particularly convenient for planning poker tournaments around spring planting. Imagine how guilty you would feel drawing to an inside straight instead of being in the tractor seat seeding the back 40. A rain on Easter Sunday should help salve the soul in regard to poker vs. planting.

If that didn’t fog a Sunday morning mind, let’s try the quiz and see if that doesn’t make you want to crawl back into bed. Here we go:

1) Per Thom Hartmann, it seems like the end of a Monopoly game. What pair’s net worth was pegged at $100 billion this week?

2) Senator Chuck Grassley made a big stink about what last week?

3) The ACA enrolled how many? What is the latest estimate of those insured through the ACA?

4) Many people were amazed when Pulitzer prizes for journalism went to the reporters of what story?

5) In the Kansas City suburb of Overton, Kansas was shocked Sunday with the killings of three people. What was the reason they were killed?

6) According to Americans for Tax Fairness, what corporation got over $7.8 billion in tax payer breaks and subsidies?

7) Governor Branstad continues to be dogged by stories surrounding hush money for fired employees. Now the state may have to pay back what other group, because hush money was commingled with other monies.

8) Math problem: The ACA has been voted on 52 times to be repealed by the US House. At $1.45 million per vote, how much have the Republicans wasted on these votes?

9) An Iowa legislator – Larry Sheets (R-Moulton) spoke in the Iowa House praising Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy for his stand against the federal government. What is Bundy accused of doing?

10) Some 975 former employees fired in the Iowa hush money scandal have been placed on a special list. What is that list called?

11) The CBO released a report that stated that the ACA would actually cost about how much less over 10 years than previously projected?

12) Republicans in what state will be voting on their right to secede from the union at their state convention in early May?

13) Once the Newton track got a handout from the government, it was inevitable that others would line up with their hands out. What other Iowa track put their handout and got a big giveaway from the Iowa House?

14) Hard to believe, but the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission turned down a license for what city by a vote of 4-1?

15) What high profile couple found out they will be grandparents this fall?

Easter bonus: Which of these were crucified and resurrected after 3 days?
B-Attis of Phrygia

1) Charles and David Koch.

2) The plan of the USDA and EPA to create bio-maps of methane emissions

3) 8 million

4) The NSA spying. AKA the Edward Snowden story.

5) The killer hated Jews and thought they were Jews.

6) Walmart. This included healthcare and food stamps for poorly paid employees.

7) Federal government for some portions of their contributions to some projects

8) $75.4 million that Boehner has wasted.

9) stealing grazing rights from the Bureau of Land Management. He has refused to pay for 20 years.

10) a blacklist of people not to be rehired.

11) approximately $164 billion

12) Wisconsin. Will the Badgers still be in the big 10?

13) Knoxville. Who will be next?

14) Cedar Rapids. Bet this one ain’t done.

15) Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Easter bonus: from what I have read all answers are correct.

You have earned a chocolate Easter bunny. Enjoy!

Hoping For Rebirth

Whether you are of a religious persuasion or not, Easter always offers a marking point in the spring time. Whether it is late or early, Easter is the unofficial beginning of spring and the planting season. Remember that Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon of spring, thus it fits nicely into the calendars of planting timing. Every year it is the marking of the rebirth of life on earth. The seeds are planted and soon enough the shoots stick their heads above the ground to announce once more that the food supply will be replenished and life will once more be able to continue.

In short, Easter is hope. Hope for good crops, hope for a good life. As society became more complex hopes included medical care, good lives for children, decent jobs, good education and many more attributes of what we call a ‘good life.’

For many, hopes for such things could be made a reality through getting a good job and working hard. In The United States, following the New Deal years, it would be possible for a person to realize these dreams. That was then, this is now. Since the so-called “Reagan Revolution” in which the wealthy became the recipients of much of the government’s policy changes it has been harder and harder for an individual to advance in society through the dint of hard work. As the ‘Reagan Revolution’ has matured, most of the paths to advancement for a person and their children have been pretty much cut off.

Simply following the news in recent years you should know that the middle class has been hollowed out, wages have been eroded, savings and retirements have been obliterated and advancement just a dream. What is even worse for most of us is that the real hope in our lives – that our children will do better has pretty much been dashed.

First there is the most recent report from the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This report states that without immediate action the earth is destined for some very rough times. This means our children and grand-children will be the bearers of the future calamities.

Second there is the result of the policies of cutting taxes over repairing and maintaining our infrastructure. Roads, bridges, sewers, water filtration, electric grid and other infrastructure built for the common good have been horribly neglected with no plans to do anything to bring these back up to standards. But the most important infrastructure item that is being ignored is our school systems.

Instead of investing money into new programs and facilities and into more training for teachers we have taken the simple way out of relying on testing, testing, testing as our new policies. The downside of this will be citizens who know little but how to take tests.

One other major breakdown is the breakdown of belief in those in authority. Using methods honed in the tobacco wars, right wingers in particular have been able to undermine the underpinnings of our society. Scientists lie, teachers are barely doing their jobs, all politicians are corrupt, elections can’t be trusted. This is just a short list of what used to be very reliable corners of our society which have been trashed so badly that their reliability is in question. All of which points to a break down in our society as a whole.

One of the most reliable paths to a better future – education, especially college – has been priced out of the range of working class people. While other countries give their citizens free education so the whole society can advance, we have gone backwards. This is a policy which will really harm us in the future. All so the rich can have more tax cuts.

And of course there is the incredible gains in wealth by the rich while the poor are suffering from an equally incredibly shrinkage in their wages. We now have a society where nearly all new wealth goes to just a few members of our society and government policies that keep it that way. That sure dashes hopes for our children’s advancements.

So this year in America, reality is replacing hope this year. Most Americans don’t like what they see either. They see a society where only a few count. They see a society which is closing off hope for their children or grandchildren shortly after they are born. They see a society where their friends and neighbors are stuck. What everybody wants is the society that was built under the New Deal, where hope sprang eternal.

This is the election year that more than any will determine what direction this country will take. We can elect those who will rebuild this country, those who are will to make those who have profited greatly through our system pay their share. That would be Democratic candidates.

Or we can elect those who have proudly given our national treasures to the rich and who have frozen our futures, those who have fostered the deterioration of our society. Up and down the ticket, Republicans are little more than toadies to the wealthy.

Pay close attention this year and you will see what I see: our future, our hopes lie with the democratic party.

As President Eisenhower once said:
“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”   – DWIGHT D EISENHOWER speech April 16, 1953

Happy Easter, All

To Amend In Iowa Get Moving

David Cobb in Iowa City

David Cobb in Iowa City

IOWA CITY— We can thank Move to Amend for the sentences “corporations are not people,” and “money is not free speech.” Now what?

David Cobb, one of the founders of the organization, didn’t have an answer at the Iowa City Public Library on April 17. He did say if we filled out a sheet the national organization will plug us in. Plus us into what?

“Our essence was the realization that even people who engage in civic engagement on issues, and there has been just amazing work that’s done,” he said. “But we haven’t, in my lifetime and maybe in a generation, seen the kind of social movements that are the earmarks of this country. The social movement that culminated in the American Revolution, actually the creation of this country, was in fact a social movement. So too was the abolitionist movement, and the women’s suffrage movement, and the trade union movement, and the civil rights movement.”

“You see there is something different between movement and issue organizing or issue activism,” Cobb concluded.

The brochure Cobb distributed on Thursday had great organizing information, with solid ideas: form a study group; organize a workshop or street theater event and invite a speaker from their organization; pass out brochures at public events; write a letter to the editor or op-ed in your local newspaper; propose a local resolution or ordinance; contact elected officials and ask them to take a public stand; or sign a petition. Here’s the rub, organizing does not a movement make.

Blog for Iowa has been writing about Citizens United, which led to creation of Move to Amend, for years. Readers are familiar with the idea of amending the Constitution to say 1). Only natural persons have Constitutional rights and 2). Money is not free speech. After almost four years of being in Iowa, Move to Amend has picked some low hanging fruit: resolutions passed by a handful of governing bodies, some organizing, and a couple of Democratic sponsors for legislation. However, the bicameral Iowa legislature is no closer to acting on amending the Constitution than they were before the Citizens United decision was handed down.

What Move to Amend needs is to become a movement, something Cobb knew this afternoon. It is a long distance from that.

It is ironic that an organization born out of a think tank and turned into a 501 (c) 3 is what Cobb’s narrative implied is not needed. If Iowans want to amend the constitution regarding corporate personhood and money as free speech, then we better get moving.

Move to Amend is looking at a 30 year process to amend the Constitution, according to Cobb. The truth is we can’t wait.

The Importance Of Economic And Social Factors

MLK guaranteed incomeNews reports often separate economic and social issues. Yet the term, socio-economic, dating back to the 1880s, indicates a linkage. And a strong political connection exists between economic and social issues.

Recent public opinion polling shows that the economy, followed by job creation, remains the dominant issue for voters. These attitudes are not surprising in a time of chronic job insecurity, stagnant wages, and shredded social safety nets. How do we as a nation make sure people have a decent standard of living regardless of work status or economic conditions?

Polling results reveal that our economy today no longer works for vast numbers of average Americans. The rich and powerful have more wealth and power than ever. Between 2009 and 2011, income fell for ninety-nine percent of the population while it rose eleven percent for the top one percent. The behavior of many one-per centers brought on the financial crisis. Yet they received a government bailout, and now their wealth continues to skyrocket once again. Meanwhile, working people find themselves floundering, trapped in economic misery.

Responses to the economic crisis in the political arena vary. Republicans tend to worship markets and demonize government. For them, economic recovery involves an austerity program, dismantling or scaling back universal social welfare programs, cutting taxes, reducing regulations, and ending collective bargaining.

Democrats strive to advance the common good and human rights for all. For them, restoring material security means shoring up social programs while promoting good jobs and wages, government regulations, and unions.

In his final book, Martin Luther King wrote that the problem of economic inequality can be addressed by creating full employment or creating guaranteed income. He recognized the critical economic role of consumption, which today accounts for nearly three quarters of our economy.

King called for a “revolution of values.” We need the social vision to pay adequate wages to every American worker regardless of their job title. Every American family should have an adequate and livable income.

King saw the guaranteed annual income as the simplest and most effective way to eliminate poverty. In order for the guaranteed income to function as a “consistently progressive measure,” requires “two conditions.” It must be based on “the median income of society, not at the lowest levels of income.” Also it must be indexed for inflation, “automatically increasing as the total social income grows.”

Today’s advocates of a guaranteed basic income see it as a viable policy of economic justice/fairness. People with a basic income can more easily care for their families, stay healthy, and improve their education. The money they spend stimulates the economy by increasing the demand for goods and services, by bringing more workers into the labor force, and by boosting tax revenues. The benefits to society include better educational outcomes, decreased mental illness, and a decline in social ills like domestic abuse and criminal activity.

While news accounts often measure the economy by the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the economic measurement that matters for most people remains whether enough Americans hold jobs with decent pay and benefits. A low-work, low-wage economy, with most people struggling to meet their basic needs and a few people living in luxury, threatens our democracy.

Americans want a sustained economic recovery and a government that will work to achieve it. Everyone should have access to employment, health care, food, housing, and a decent standard of living.

The political and cultural struggles waged by liberals have significantly contributed to making American society more humane and less oppressive. The progress made in securing basic human rights for blacks, women, the elderly, the disabled, immigrants, and gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgendered people stands as a testament to their courage and commitment.

Ralph Scharnau teaches U. S. history at Northeast Iowa Community College, Peosta.  He holds a Ph.D. from Northern Illinois University.  His publications include articles on labor history in Iowa and Dubuque.  Scharnau, a peace and justice activist, writes monthly op-ed columns for the Dubuque Telegraph Herald.

Move To Amend’s Barnstorming Tour Coming To Iowa City

On Thursday April 17, David Cobb will be making a stop in Iowa City as part of Move To Amend’s spring barnstorming tour.

The event will be at noon at the Iowa City Public Library, Meeting Room A.  This event will be open to the public, and is especially intended to give elected officials and others interested in the legislative process an opportunity to meet David Cobb, hear about Move To Amend’s work and progress around the country, and hear a summary of what has developed in Iowa’s legislature and several cities and towns.  We think this will be a great opportunity to hear about Move To Amend’s work and for Move To Amend to learn about what is developing in Iowa.

If you plan to attend, an RSVP would be helpful, so we know how much pizza we should order, but definitely not needed:  we’d like anyone interested to stop in!

Move to Amend is the organization that originated the drive for a constitutional amendment to address out-of-control corporate spending and influence in our elections – the result of the US Supreme Court’s “Citizen’s United” ruling among others.  The organization is working for the adoption of an amendment that will clarify that corporations are not people; and money is not speech.

The goal of Move to Amend’s Barnstorming Tours is to educate, inspire action, and assist local organizers with Move to Amend affiliate groups.

Originally from Houston, Texas, David Cobb began his legal  career after working as a waiter and shrimper.  He has worked with the Project on Corporations, Law and Democracy (POCLAD), the Sierra Club and, more recently, with Move To Amend as one of their chief speakers and educators.  As part of his commitment to democracy and human rights, he also works with a team facilitating anti-racism workshops throughout the country.

For more information about Move To Amend:

Labor Update: The Looting Of Art And Pensions

A portion of the north wall of Rivera's murals in the DIA
When Detroit became the largest U.S. city to declare bankruptcy last year, it triggered a process by which all the city’s assets would be thrown out on the lawn like a foreclosed home whose contents would be pilfered through by neighbors and strangers alike for their potential value.

And as the objects that made the house a home are reassessed in this new shameful context, what was once considered essential – priceless, in fact – is now valued at pennies on the dollar to expedite the financial settlement so everyone can quickly move on.

Such is the context for the extraordinarily painful negotiations taking place in Detroit right now as the Detroit Institute of Art’s collection has become the city’s main bargaining chip for the billions of dollars in unfunded debt on pension and health benefits owed to current and future retirees. The publicly-owned collection includes Bruegel’s “The Wedding Dance,” Rodin’s “The Thinker,” a self-portrait by Van Gogh, and Diego Rivera’s masterpiece mural depicting Detroit’s since-collapsed auto industry – more than 66,000 pieces altogether.

If accomplished, this will be the largest liquidation of public art in US history, and the most recent looting of art since Iraq’s Museum was vanquished in 2003.

Stealing art during moments of crisis is nothing new. In fact it’s the norm. This was sentimentally portrayed recently in George Clooney’s film, Monuments Men, in which a troop of loveable art historians are commissioned to protect and recover stolen art from the Nazis in the waning months of WWII.

But like any good art depicting a historic event, Monuments Men should have been a commentary on the present – a kind of plea to human conscience the way Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” was during the McCarthy Era. But it wasn’t.

Instead, Monuments Men was a pat on the back to the Good Americans for beating the Bad Nazis and Bad Russians. There was no subtext to help us understand the looting of both the public worker’s pensions and the Detroit Institute of Art’s collection taking place today by bankruptcy judges, lawyers, hedge fund managers, investment bankers.

It contained no metaphor for Kevyn Orr, Detroit’s unelected City Manager who was appointed by Michigan’s Republican Governor Rick Snyder under the state’s controversial Emergency Manager law. “Everything is on the table,” Orr has repeatedly said regarding the negotiations.

To his credit, Governor Snyder has proposed a “Grand Bargain” that would maintain the art in the museum under the management of a private foundation and prevent its liquidation. However, creditors have accused Christies Auction House of low-balling the value of the art in the $816 settlement that would monumentally underfund the pension obligations.

And the discussion of salvaging the art at the expense of workers’ pensions has caught the ire of union leaders fighting to protect workers’ pensions. “The elevation of the city’s art above our hard-earned pensions and health care is unfair, offensive and elitist,” said Jeff Pegg, president of the Detroit Firefighters Association, reading from a statement signed by four labor leaders representing the public sector workers.  “We appreciate the city’s art collection. But, stated bluntly: Art is a luxury. It’s not essential, like food and health care.”

So, in steps Financial Guaranty Insurance Company last Wednesday, which has asked the bankruptcy judge to force the city to instead sell all the Detroit Institute of Arts’ property (building included) to corporate buyout firms including Catalyst Acquisitions and Bell Capital Partners.

These negotiations are completely unprecedented, so it’s easy to forget that the monetization and liquidation of public art to ensure pensioners a dignified retirement is a most sublime corruption. We are expected to believe that the only option is to sell this art to fund constitutionally protected retirements.

Perhaps the acrimony caused by these insane negotiations will bog it down in so much red tape that people come to their senses and realize this entire bankruptcy is illegal, immoral, that the sale of the art that belongs to the people of Detroit is blocked?

Perhaps Congress will propose a federal bailout for the workers’ pensions, similar to the one they passed in 2008 to bail out the very banks who are now clamoring to get their hands on their very own Van Gogh?

Or perhaps Clooney will make another movie before he heads back to Darfur that more artfully depicts a public and cultural crisis of catastrophic dimensions?


Can’t We Just Say The Branstad Administration Is Corrupt?

branstadIt’s not mismanagement. It’s not incompetence.  It’s corruption.  Iowans need to wise up about Governor Branstad.

Listen to Senator Hogg explain how things are.

“Why is the Assistant Director of the Iowa law Enforcement Academy, Mike Quinn, who has committed and and been confirmed to have committed repeated sexual harassment, and threatened to slit the throat of a female worker who exposed it, why is he still working at the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy?  …Why have you done nothing, Governor?”  

This and more:  Watch.

Branstad Using Religion To Get Votes

This is just plain weird.

Weekend Hodgepodge

Congressman Dave Loebsack

Congressman Dave Loebsack

Congratulations to Congressman Dave Loebsack on being named the ranking member on the House Education and Workforce Subcommittee on early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education. Maybe not a flashy position, but one where he can have an effect on Iowans lives in a good way. We know there is work that needs to be done due to the way that that education has been treated under the last Republican administration and with the obstruction of the Republicans in the Senate and the House. Good Luck, Congressman.

Branstad Doesn’t Seem To Know Much
Our Governor just doesn’t seem to quite have a handle on what is going on around him these days. His drivers driving too fast, not knowing he just can’t shut down a state facility, not knowing what is going on with personnel within his administration. I think Terry is suffering from burnout from being too long in the job. I know I am suffering burnout from him being in the job too long.

Civil Rights Act 50 Years Old.
Last Thursday the Civil Rights Act turned 50 years old. Probably one of the most reviled laws in our history. Probably directly responsible for the Republican Patry’s infamous Southern Strategy and all the consequence of that including today’s Tea Party. This is one Act that has tried to reconcile the gap between the promise of America (“all men created equal”) and its reality of racism and vast inequality of resource distribution. It has worked well at times, but is now under direct attack from the Roberts Court. May it re-emerge to be a guiding light to the good that is in men and women, rather than a magnet for the hate.

Paul Ryan Visits Iowa
No report here, but we know what he stands for:
(from democraticunderground)
paul ryans budget

Succession Matters
This fall before you vote, remember that succession is a factor to consider. Before voting for Terry Branstad, remember that Kim Reynolds is his chosen successor. Ms. Reynolds is very right wing.

Before voting for a republican for the US House, remember that is a vote for Boehner (or worse) as the second in line to succeed the President. That is a scary thought. Think about the consequences of your votes.

Bernie Sanders:
Reminding us what counts in elections, people.

bernie sanders on money in politics

Limbaugh Upset About Colbert
Apparently no one has told Limbaugh there are buttons that turn the TV off and that also change the channel.