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Random Thoughts Before A Holiday

* The President takes as bold of an action as he possibly can and the Speaker of the House claims this ends any co-operation that was going to happen between congress and the President. Maybe Boehner missed it, but there was never any co-operation to begin with. When you make a threat, try to operate within reality, Boehner.

cooperation after

* We will sure miss this guy:

attribution:EarlG at democraticunderground,com

attribution:EarlG at democraticunderground,com

* While you are sitting back digesting the turkey and taters, the Koch brothers and their ilk will be busy preparing their demands for the state politicians they own. Did I say own? I meant own. They will whine and dine them (yep I meant whine about how tough it is to be a billionaire these days) and give them a list of must dos or they will buy new politicians. I expect a new demand will be to destroy the electoral college before the next election.

* The President asks for TV network air time for a momentous speech and the networks tell him to take a hike, “Big Bang Theory” is much more important than some silly speech. Just in case you wondered how the media views Obama or any Democrat for that matter.

* If you are shopping over the holiday weekend, remember that you do vote with your dollars. Money spent at most of the big box stores will come back to haunt you when the billionaires buy politicians with the profits. Shop local if you can. Otherwise try to pick merchants who espouse policies you do: decent pay, equal pay and decent working conditions.

* There will be many things to fight against in the next congress. One that really hasn’t been talked about much but has me worried is the fate of the Post Office. As the employer with the biggest (and I daresay most cohesive) union in the country, I believe we can expect an all out assault on the Post Office to the point of totally dismantling it. In covering this story, I expect the media will give us many stories on how bad the USPO is and how private industry could do the job better. Typical media crap.

* Have a good holiday. Take a few moments to think of those less fortunate. Then try to act in ways that could help them.

Sunday Funday: Buffalo Still Exists Edition

we can try the quiz after dinner

we can try the quiz after dinner

THE SKY IS FALLING! THE SKY IS FALLING! Or so it must have seemed in Buffalo, New York and environs last week. Epochal snowfall. Even Noah himself would have had trouble in this one. Once more a weather event points up that indeed the climate is changing and we are headed for more and more extreme incidents. Remember that little rain we had last summer? Remember those tornadoes that devastated Washington, Illinois last November? Once again Australia is burning up. Lakes in California are dried up. The United Nations says we must make drastic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions immediately.

Buffalo survives for this round. But the warning shots are getting louder.

We’ll mix in a little Thanksgiving trivia with the questions this week.

1) In a bit of a surprise what major world economy announced they were in recession at the beginning of the week?

2) President Obama made a major policy address on immigration Thursday. Which of the television networks carried this major address?

3) The Iowa Board of Regents will discuss a third straight tuition freeze since Iowa students graduate ranked as number what in debt load?

4) The first Thanksgiving Day Parade was held in 1920 by what department store? (Choices: Macy’s Gimbel’s or Penney’s)

5) The Keystone XL pipeline was “defeated” in the Senate by a vote of what?

6) Susan Hamm of Oklahoma City made headlines when she said she would appeal her divorce settlement as being too low. What was the settlement?

7) Benjy, the Irish bull was scheduled for the slaughterhouse before he was saved by activists who raised money to save him. Why was Benjy scheduled to be slaughtered?

8) History notes that the Pilgrims may have been dumped at Plymouth Rock because the ship’s crew feared running out of what staple provision on the way home to England? (hint: it was stored in kegs)

9) A wise Person would stock up now. Increased consumption and a disease called “frosty pod” threatens what staple of the American diet?

10) An Iowa man went where he shouldn’t have. R. j. Ranae Kapheim of Davenport was arrested where with what?

11) Campus shootings were recorded at two locations this week. Can you name one of them?

12) What long time humorist was not laughing this week as many women came forward with tales of sexual abuse at his hands?

13) Back in the day – 1621 – it took about how long to travel from England to America – two months, three months or four months?

14) The USDA approved a genetically modified potato for Simplot company. However, what company said they would not use this potato?

15) FDR tried to move up the Thanksgiving holiday by a week to stimulate the economy in what year?

Last I heard Buffalo had as much as 84 inches (7 feet) of snow. That is just unbelievable. Our best wishes for a recovery for those folks.

Answers:

1) Japan

2) PBS – none of the commercial networks carried the address

3) sixth highest

4) Gimbel’s in Philadelphia. Macy joined the fun in 1924

5) 59 for 41 against – therefore the against wins in Senate math

6) She got $1 billion, but since that was only 6% of her husband’s fortune, she felt it too little

7) he seemed to be gay, only hung with the bulls and had no interest in mating

8) beer – fermented drinks were often used since water could kill a person

9) chocolate

10) near the White House with several weapons and ammunition.

11) Edinburg, Pa. and Florida State

12) Bill Cosby

13) two months

14) McDonald’s said it would not use the potato for fries – at least for now.

15) 1939. In 1941 Congress passed a bill establishing the 4th Thursday as Thanksgiving. Moving the holiday was a major kerfluffle.

For those who just can’t get enough football, the Grey Cup is scheduled for next Sunday (Nov. 30) at 5PM Central time.
Happy Holiday

REPORT: Executive Action on Immigration Will Boost Iowa’s Economy‏

progress iowa

For Immediate Release: November 20th, 2014
Contact: Matt Sinovic, (515) 423-0530
www.progressiowa.org

REPORT: Executive Action on Immigration Will Boost Iowa’s Economy

Des Moines, Iowa — President Obama’s announced executive action on immigration will boost the Iowa economy, according to a new report released by the Center for American Progress (CAP). 13,000 undocumented immigrants living in Iowa would see their wages increase by 8.5%, and Iowa tax revenues would see a $22 million spike over five years, according to the study.

Click here to read the report

Progress Iowa Executive Director Matt Sinovic issued the following statement in response to President Obama’s executive action and the CAP report:

“President Obama’s executive action will keep families together, raise wages for thousands of Iowans, and bring more money in to our state. The President’s action tonight will make our country and our economy more secure.”

“Republicans like Steve King will demagogue the President’s decision, but I challenge them to speak directly to the 13,000 undocumented immigrants living in Iowa who would be forced to leave their children behind if deported. The US Senate passed bipartisan legislation in 2013, by a 68-32 margin, but it died in the House of Representatives, who refused to hold a vote. Because of their inaction, families in Iowa and across the country were left to wonder whether they would stay together or be ripped apart. Before King or any Congressional Republican criticizes the President, they should remember we are in the position we are today because of their failure to act.”

“The policy effects of the President’s executive action will also be tremendous for our country. Immigrants impacted by the President’s executive action will be required to pay taxes, which will help our economy. And the Department of Homeland Security will be able to free up resources to focus on serious criminals and those who might present a threat to our national security.”

“We hope for and will continue to support a legislative solution to our broken immigration system. But given the multiple delays and the failure by Congressman King and the House of Representatives to act, we are thankful that the President took the executive action he did.”

Progress Iowa is a statewide organization focused on research, education and advocacy regarding Iowa public policy.

A Good Thanksgiving For The 1%

reigning Turkey of the Year

reigning Turkey of the Year

We look forward to the Thanksgiving holiday with a true frustration.

Television news will focus on such important news stories as who will be open all day Thanksgiving so we can get that holiday shopping started early or the folks camped out so they can save a nickel on the newest video system. After all those stores spend money for advertising, so what is wrong with giving them a segment of the news and maybe a flash or two of their logo on the news. That’s what news is supposed to be isn’t it? Support for the station’s bottom line, right? Stories of poor people and the middle class getting screwed by corporations and condoned by many current government policies just aren’t newsworthy.

So three weeks after an outrageously expensive and poorly attended midterm election we go back to what has become business as usual for America: keeping wages low as the lion’s share of profit goes to a few people at the top; families working 3 and 4 jobs between the parents and they can barely put food on the table; the vaunted “best medical care in the world” that is closed to many with a very good chance it will be closed to millions more if the Tea Party has its way; global warming perhaps beyond the tipping point condemning our children and grandchildren to a hell on earth while oil companies buy and sell politicians; our education system that is sacrificed on the altar of money and our future bankrupted for leaders because we refuse to educate our children.

We always have money for war. We always have money for the next Pentagon toy no matter the cost. Yet we can barely help our neighbor with a few bucks to heat his house in the sub-freezing weather of Iowa. Nor can we scrape up a few bucks to help the family down the street that is down on its luck with food stamps or unemployment insurance. We have a nattering class that says “get a job.” Yet there are not enough jobs to go around and those that are open pay so little that the worker can’t afford rent, food insurance and transportation. One in six Americans go to sleep hungry. Millions are homeless. This is due to choices those on the right have made, nothing else.

There is a huge amount of work that needs to be done in this country. There is much repair left over from last century to be attended to. There is much work to be done to set the stage for advancement in the new century to keep America in its leadership position in the world. But those who control the purse strings in this country decided long ago that their focus will be to extract as much money from society as they can as quickly as they can while giving as little as they can back to society. In their quest they have enlisted craven politicians who will do whatever they are told for price.

Americans have been optimistic from the very beginning of this country, but it appears even they have reached a breaking point. Once the mantra was that we can make our leaders listen if we get together and demand it. Now the reality many confront is that they will not be listened to unless they come with money in their hands. Popular actions get little response, money gets immediate action. The political system is for sale and 99% of us can’t even get a bid in. In response citizens do not vote because they feel the system is rigged against them.

Media, once known as the fourth estate that was to act as a check on government abuse, is now fully integrated into the media-corporate-government complex. Where once common folk could turn to the likes of HL Mencken or Walter Cronkite or Ed Murrow for in depth analysis we now have Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh whose sole mission is to broadcast the propaganda of the wealthy. The work of true journalism is now done in the margins by the likes of Amy Goodman, Matt Taibi and Jeremy Scahill. Magazines like the Nation and Mother Jones do important work, but are mostly ignored. The best informed Americans get their news not from NPR, but from comedians Jon Stewart, Steven Colbert and John Fugelsang.

There is but one corner of the media not controlled by the wealthy – the internet. As could be expected the assault to control that corner is an all out war of lobbying and favors. One man, FCC chair Tom Wheeler, stands as the very last defense against total corporate take over of the internet. Even the Tea party base opposes this take over. Wheeler is working himself into a frenzy trying to give the wealthy what they want while making it appear he isn’t doing so. They were once his employer and presumably will be again. The game is rigged.

Beginning in 1971 with the Powell memo, the wealthy have worked hard for control of this country. The Reagan years put into place economic policies that have continued and been magnified through today that greatly favor the wealthy. Social policies have been gutted. Voting rights become narrower and narrower. Drug policies and law enforcement have been used in large part against certain population groups, thus muting any power they may accrue.

Yes, it is a great time to be wealthy in America. For the rest of us, not so much.

President Obama’s Immigration Speech

 

Symposium On Wealth Disparity In America

David Cay Johnston

David Cay Johnston

Yours truly will speak on the role of unions in decreasing inequality at this forum: November 22nd, 9:00 AM – 1:30 PM at Augustana College: If you are in the Quad Cities Saturday, join us for this event:

“Symposium on the Impact of Wealth Disparity on America.”  Moderated by Morning News Anchor Emily Scarlett (TV4) and featuring Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist David Cay Johnston, Keynote Speaker. Break-out sessions with Augustana College Dean Dr. Pareena Lawrence, Rev. Dwight Ford, Dr. Christopher Whitt, Mayor Bill Gluba, Dr. Keri Manning with other thought-leaders from the greater QCA community.

11:00 AM: Concurrent Break-out sessions

Topics include:

– Political and Governmental Elements of Wealth Disparity: Government has long been seen as playing an integral role in alleviating poverty. Political efforts have had different effects on government over time.

– Poverty on the Community Level: What is the “big picture” in the QCA

– Poverty Issues in K – 12 Education: How do our schools deal with poverty? What are they seeing?

– Long Term Inter-Generational Poverty: What is it’s grip on our society? What do we need to do to break that grip?

– The Economy: What is the impact of wealth disparity on business? On the Gross Domestic Product? On the overall direction of the economy?

– Poverty Consciousness: What is the psychology and sociology of wealth disparity? What is the relationship with the legal system?

12:30 – 1:30 PM: Roundtable/Closing Discussion

#

Who is David Cay Johnston?

He’s a prolific Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist and author writing for Newsweek, Al Jazeera America, The Nation, Common Dreams, Democracy Now, The National Memo and several tax journals. He wrote for the New York Times for over 13 years along with the Detroit Free Press, Philadelphia Inquirer, and the LA Times. He’s a regular contributor on many of MSNBC’s programs. Among his books are:

 – Divided: The Perils of Our Growing Inequality (2014)
The Fine Print: How Big Companies Use “Plain English” to Rob You Blind (2012)
Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense and Stick You With The Bill (2007)
Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super-Rich–and Cheat Everybody Else (2003)
Temples of Chance: How America Inc. Bought Out Murder Inc. to Win Control of the Casino Business (1992)

 

Does Iowa Need A New Oil Pipeline?

maureen-mccue(1)

Dr. Maureen McCue

There are calls to increase our capacity to ship oil by a new pipeline across Iowa. It is asserted a new pipeline will provide needed energy for Iowa’s industries and other energy consumers, it would help create energy independence and jobs. Overlooking the necessity to acquire valuable farmland and the inherent risk of pipeline leakage and potential to harm aquifers, pipelines could be somewhat safer and more efficient than rail transit. However, there is an even greater need to reduce dependency on fossil fuels.

Debate about the pros and cons of safest delivery for Bakken oil by train or by pipeline, and the number of “good” short term jobs provided by either route, distracts from the far more pressing issue. We need to begin a real conversation about how can Iowa move beyond dependency on fossil fuels–domestic or foreign.

As the number one consumer of oil in the world, the United States must make every attempt to reduce our carbon footprint and begin to improve the options for a liveable future. It’s important that business leaders & elected officials understand that pipelines are just not in our economic interest, they are not in the interest of safety or public health. As the climate continues to become more chaotic, storms, floods, reduced agricultural production, and water pollution will all become far more costly to the public, here and elsewhere, than any safety or economic gains generated by the proposed pipeline.

The public, our children and grandchildren all deserve a livable future. Let’s use Iowa’s resources, physical and intellectual, to make serious efforts to move to alternative energy sources, to reduce our demand for more energy, to improve Iowa’s capacity to provide essentials like food and water to current and future generations. Invest in good jobs in clean energy, and improve our economy, not just in the present but for many years to come.

Do not build more pipelines across Iowa!

Maureen McCue MD PhD is an adjunct professor of global health at the University of Iowa. Her medical specialty is epidemiology. She is also on the national board of directors for Physicians for Social Responsibility, and coordinator for its Iowa Chapter.

2014 Midterms A Mencken Moment

donald kaulotherwords.org

This is Donald Kaul’s first column since last December. Check out the comments from his delighted fans on otherwords.org. 

Dick Tuck, the legendary political prankster and wit, once ran for local office in San Francisco and lost. His concession speech, in its entirety: “The people have spoken — the bastards.”

Now, you know me — I wouldn’t say anything like that about the recent elections. It’s vulgar and I’m couth.

Perhaps it’s safer to quote the Sage of Baltimore, H.L. Mencken, who said: “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”

The 2014 midterms were a Mencken moment.

It was a disaster for the Democratic Party, of course. They lost every election that was possible to lose and a few that weren’t. But it was an even greater disaster for the American people.

Faced with an onrushing manmade climate crisis, U.S. voters have now elected a congressional majority that denies global warming. (Did I mention that it’s also a majority financed by oil, gas, and coal money?)

Burdened with a reverse Robin Hood tax structure that robs the poor to give to the rich, voters elected the people who are most adamant that the rich, the richer, and (most of all) the richest be taxed lightly (if at all) lest they cease creating jobs.

Whether they create jobs or not.

Angered by the political gridlock in Washington, Americans not only reelected the leaders of the Republican obstructionist caucus, they substantially increased its numbers.

Frustrated by President Barack Obama’s inability to clear up the mess in the Middle East (Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and all that), they backed the party that made the mess in the first place and has yet to so much as apologize for it.

The result is that We the People find ourselves at the mercy of cynical manipulators joined at the hip with true-believing ignoramuses.

How did we get here?

I blame the Democrats for having lost their identity as a progressive party of the working stiff. The Democratic Party is instead…nothing at all. It’s a collection of political strands that pull in one direction and push in the other.

Moreover, it’s leaderless. Obama has his virtues — he’s bright and reasonable — but he’s an awful politician. He makes Jimmy Carter look like Lyndon Johnson.

Nothing makes this clearer than his treatment of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Essentially, he made a speech and let his crack federal bureaucracy handle the details.

To make a long story short, it didn’t work. The rollout was horrendously inept, and Obama did next to nothing to sell the plan to a confused public until it was too late.

Into the resulting vacuum the Republicans injected a never-ending barrage of vitriol. Without being very specific, they characterized the plan as an unparalleled disaster. And they did it on a daily basis. For two years or more, Republicans could hardly broach any subject — the war, the economy, the weather — without including a rant on the evils of making health care more widely available.

Regrettably, this demonization of health care carried the day, even though the plan overcame its early problems to become a success. Its flaws were exaggerated. Its virtues became secrets.

That’s a failure of political leadership, which Democrats paid for heavily.

There’s talk now in Washington of a new spirit of cooperation between the two major parties. This talk is generally between people who start drinking before noon.

For the past six years Republicans in Congress have done everything in their power to delegitimize President Obama. They’ve questioned his citizenship, his patriotism, his intelligence, and his religion. They did that while narrowly controlling one house of Congress.

To think that giving them full control of both chambers will make them kinder, gentler, and more amenable to compromise requires a leap of faith available only to saints and fools.

May God help the United States the next time we have to raise the debt limit.

OtherWords columnist Donald Kaul lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. OtherWords.org

Election A Disaster For… Republicans?

blue wall

The “Blue Wall”

A Republican wrote an article on The Houston Chronicle blog about how this election was a disaster for Republicans. Here are some highlights, and there is plenty of very compelling stuff left to read if you click on the link below. Joni Ernst gets a mention and not in a good way.

Oh, but before we all get too hopeful, after you read this article, check out how the GOP would like to gerrymander the Democrats’ electoral map advantage

http://blog.chron.com/goplifer/2014/11/the-missing-story-of-the-2014-election/

by Chris Ladd

The biggest Republican victory in decades did not move the map. The Republican party’s geographic and demographic isolation from the rest of America actually got worse.

Republicans this week scored the kind of win that sets one up for spectacular, catastrophic failure and no one is talking about it.

What emerges from the numbers is the continuation of a trend that has been in place for almost two decades. Once again, Republicans are disappearing from the competitive landscape at the national level across the most heavily populated sections of the country while intensifying their hold on a declining electoral bloc of aging, white, rural voters…

– Republicans in 2014 were the most popular girl at a party no one attended. Voter turnout was awful.

– Democrats have consolidated their power behind the sections of the country that generate the overwhelming bulk of America’s wealth outside the energy industry. That’s only ironic if you buy into far-right propaganda, but it’s interesting none the less.

– Vote suppression is working remarkably well, but that won’t last. Eventually Democrats will help people get the documentation they need to meet the ridiculous and confusing new requirements. The whole “voter integrity” sham may have given Republicans a one or maybe two-election boost in low-turnout races. Meanwhile we kissed off minority votes for the foreseeable future.

– Across the country, every major Democratic ballot initiative was successful, including every minimum wage increase, even in the red states.

– Every personhood amendment failed.

– For only the second time in fifty years Nebraska is sending a Democrat to Congress. Former Republican, Brad Ashford, defeated one of the GOP’s most stubborn climate deniers to take the seat.

– Almost half of the Republican Congressional delegation now comes from the former Confederacy. Total coincidence, just pointing that out.

Some force, some gathering of sane, rational, authentically concerned human beings generally at peace with reality must emerge in the next four to six years from the right, or our opportunity will be lost for a long generation. Needless to say, Greg Abbott and Jodi Ernst are not that force.

“Winning” this election did not help that force emerge. This was a dark week for Republicans, and for everyone who wants to see America remain the world’s most vibrant, most powerful nation.

(click here to read the entire article)

Keystone XL — Bright Shiny Object

Dave Loebsack

Dave Loebsack

Friday the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill directing the federal government to move forward on the Keystone XL pipeline on a 252-161 vote. It was less than the number of votes needed to override a presidential veto, but Barack Obama has been holding his cards close to the chest on Keystone. What he would do if a bill reached his desk is uncertain.

According to the New York Times, the U.S. Senate scheduled a vote on the bill for Tuesday, and Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) believes there are already 59 of 60 votes required to overcome a filibuster when the vote comes up. If the senate can get past a filibuster, the bill’s passage is assured, although getting 67 votes needed to override a presidential veto is less certain than it is in the the house. It’s all political theater.

Our Representative Dave Loebsack voted for the bill, reversing his last vote on Keystone XL. He sent social media atwitter with shock and disappointment framed in terms that appeared to help the authors vent frustration more than say anything coherent. I am disappointed with the vote, but what politician ever consistently voted my way?

I know a couple of things.

When people talk about “environmentalists” I no longer have a clue to whom they refer. Is a farmer who plants a buffer zone based on a government grant an environmentalist? Is a non-governmental organization’s local staff member—overly dependent upon funding sources—an environmentalist? Is a Washington lobbyist for a large NGO an environmentalist? What about members of the defense department working toward a lower carbon footprint for the military? What about my neighbors who protest building a subdivision near Lake Macbride? There aren’t real answers to these questions, and that’s the problem with vague references to “environmentalists.” There is no club to which they all belong, and fewer common denominators. The idea is actually a right wing talking point, and the frame “environmentalists” is used to demonize advocates for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and against production of electricity using coal, natural gas and nuclear fuels. Keystone XL is not a common denominator among environmentalists.

The failure of environmentalists was targeting the pipeline at all, instead of the tar sands. The tar sands is a bigger problem because of humanity’s inexhaustible thirst for oil and natural gas. This is the same problem for the Bakken, West Texas and Eagle Ford formations. Because oil and gas are in demand, there is direct financial return, subsidized by our government, in exploiting these resources. The environmental communities have been unable to adequately articulate the unrecognized costs in terms of human health of these exploration, discovery and production operations—even if a small number of people are working on it. Successful efforts have taken a targeted, NIMBY approach, like the fight against frac sand mining in Allamakee County. By targeting Keystone XL, environmentalists set themselves up for failure. As a friend wrote me last night, “there are hundreds of pipelines in this country already—what’s one or two more?”

I also know unions favor building pipelines. Ken Sagar and Bill Gerhard laid out their position in a Dec. 11 opinion piece in the Des Moines Register. Only a cynic would say that Loebsack’s vote on Keystone XL was quid pro quo for union financial and canvassing support during the 2014 midterms. It is likely more complicated than that, but it had to have been a factor. Part of being Democratic is the fact that Democrats don’t always agree. Keystone XL and Iowa’s proposed Bakken Oil Pipeline are a prime examples of that. Loebsack’s framing of the explanation for his vote makes his sympathies for the union’s legislative priority clear.

“I was skeptical of side stepping the normal processes, but the jobs attached to building the Keystone Pipeline are too important and can no longer be tied to D.C. gridlock,” Loebsack said, according to Ed Tibbetts of the Quad-City Times.

What I also know is October 2014 was the hottest month recorded on the planet since record-keeping began, according to the Washington Post. Yes, you skeptics, the world’s temperatures may have been higher or much colder in some prehistoric era. But what matters more is our civilization, and the changes produced by the industrial revolution are at risk. The underpinnings of basic facts about our lives, when the first frost comes, the amount of rainfall in a region, how we produce electricity, how we sequester carbon in the land, water sourcing, and others are all being undone.

It will take more than one vote in one governmental body to address these broader challenges. What I know is that is unlikely to happen in my lifetime unless we stop focusing on bright and shiny objects like Keystone XL.