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Are Iowa Republicans Blum And King Koch Brothers Employees?

AlecThey might as well be. They are apparently working for the Kochs’ agenda, not for Iowans.  Here is a message from the Iowa Democratic Party:

Rod Blum Receives Award from Koch Brothers-Backed Group Pushing to Dismantle Medicare and Social Security

No surprise: Blum Voted to Gut Medicare and Social Security for Iowa Seniors Earlier this Year

DES MOINES – The Dubuque Telegraph Herald reported this weekend that the 60 Plus Association, a Koch Brothers-funded group that advocates for turning Medicare into a voucher program and privatizing Social Security, [profitizing] awarded Rod Blum with the misleadingly titled “Guardian of Seniors Rights Award.”

In response, IDP Press Secretary Josh Levitt issued the following statement:

“Given that Rod Blum voted this year to dismantle Medicare and Social Security, it’s no surprise that he was given an award from the 60 Plus Association – a Koch Brothers-backed organization that shills for the destruction of Medicare and Social Security as we know it. With friends like these, Blum might be packing up his office before the award even makes it on his wall.”

Rod Blum has received a 100% voter score from the Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity this year.

Contact: Josh Levitt

Fear, Paranoia, Immigration And Christian Values

do not feed the fearsI am saddened by so many aspects of the responses to the Paris attacks. My heart aches for the dead, and their grieving loved ones. All violence should be condemned.

I worry for the Muslims in my personal circles. Orphaned survivors of the Bosnian conflicts in the ’90’s, adopted by a friend, and now healthy, well-educated, productive, compassionate members of our society. The tour bus driver on my recent trip to the Holy Land, who spent 2 weeks shepherding our group around the West Bank, explaining with a love and knowledge of history, that any history professor would be proud of, so many details about his land and culture that we never hear about back here. The Muslim family that hosted friends and I on our visit to Kashmir State, India, with a gracious hospitality that most Americans no longer see in action.  I wonder about the backlash against the American Muslims working in our political system, like Des Moines’ Ako Abdul-Samad and Minnesota’s Keith Ellison.

I am disappointed with arguments about assimilation. My Dutch ancestors used Dutch in their churches and neighborhoods for two generations after arriving here. So did the Scandinavian emigrants who landed in Iowa in the 1800’s. First generation immigrants don’t assimilate, and 3rd generation always do. Communities with constant additions of new first generation immigrants may seem unassimilated, but individuals are always moving in that direction.

What values do they not share with Americans? They are family oriented people.

Islam has always valued education, and much of our knowledge base is a result of Muslim scholarship

For me, the response to these immigrants tears at the heart of the definition of “Christian. ”

I see parallels in this to the Good Samaritan parable. Would Jesus want us to exclude Syrians from the definition of neighbor? Is personal safety a better excuse than the ones offered by the priest and Levite for ignoring urgent needs? Where do we find encouragement from Jesus to value personal safety, national borders, rigid adherence to laws and tradition above being Christ to those in need?

Addressing the “safety” issue needs perspective. After all of the rush to blame refugees and Syrians for our troubles, it turns out that the Paris attackers were neither.

We already have a very strong process for screening immigrants. This call for strengthening that process is not only blatant pandering to fear, but an insult to our hardworking, dedicated employees in the immigration department. Another way to to undermine government through false calls of failure.

Why do we fuss about the sincerely small chance of danger from refugees and immigrants while ignoring all of the damage we do to ourselves? The focus moves so very quickly from a reasoned accounting of facts to an abstract desire for cultural homogeneity, a desire that desecrates our history as a nation of immigrants. E Pluribus Unum. The founders’ motto. Out of many, one. There was no expectation of homogeneity right from our start.

We are not entitled to a perfectly safe world. Never has, never will exist.

An Open Letter To Progressive Critics Of Dave Loebsack’s Vote On The SAFE Act

Dave Loebsack IA02

Dave Loebsack IA02

First, read Dave’s statement on Facebook

Here is a link to the legislation.  It is not too much to ask critics to at least read the bill.

Most importantly, check out Dave’s career voting record on VoteSmart. Dave has a very poor voting record on conservatives’ bucket list and an excellent voting record in support of progressive issues.


Dave Loebsack is my congressman. I voted for him in 2006 when he defeated Republican Jim Leach and each election since then. I worked with friends and family to help him get elected. I viewed Jim Leach as an enabler for the Bush/Cheney administration and I was ecstatic when Dave won. I am proud of Dave and his representation of my district.

There has been a great deal of wailing and gnashing of teeth on social media over Dave’s vote on the immigration bill this week. He voted with 46 other Democratic representatives with a majority of Republicans for a bill that makes it more difficult for Syrian refugees to enter the country.

This is a bill that President Obama has vowed to veto, and Senate Democrats have committed to blocking any attempt to override that veto. This is a bill that was going to pass the House by a large margin and very likely will never be put into effect. So what was at stake with this vote? Was it messaging? Was it principle? Was it a progressive purity test?

Dave represents one fourth of the population of Iowa. District 2 runs from Davenport to Osceola to Newton. It is urban and rural. We Iowans are a mixed group. And our district is a mixed group. Dave is committed to and does a great job of, representing the whole district.

He attempts to work across party lines to benefit all of us. He takes votes that I disagree with. He at times offers weak defenses of these votes. But for those who take this to mean that he is no longer worthy of your support I have these questions. Do you not understand the political process? Do you not see what has become of the Republican Party here in Iowa and in the nation?

Dave has a great record in his 8 years in congress. He works to get things done. He works with others to get bills passed. Yes – he votes against his party at times. Yes – he votes against the president at times. Yes, at times the president and the Democrats pass legislation that I don’t agree with. But to say that Dave Loebsack does not serve and represent our district well is just plain wrong. He leads on some issues and he follows on others. I find that most often he has well-reasoned explanations of his positions.

Disagree with him on his votes. Let him know why you think he is wrong. But leave off with the “I deserve better” rhetoric. Leave off with the “someone more progressive should run against him in a primary” rhetoric. And please leave off with the name calling.  He is at this time the last standing Democrat from Iowa in Congress.  He’s there because he works hard and because he’s in the District every weekend meeting and talking with Iowans.  He deserves better from you.

Bernie Sanders Speech On Democratic Socialism

Thursday at Georgetown University

The speech itself is about an hour long with about a half an hour of Q&A, so you can plan time to watch it.

JFK: Liberal

john f kennedyTo honor the memory of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, murdered 52 years ago today in Dallas, Texas we present his acceptance speech before the New York Liberal Party in 1960

Over the years the term “liberal” has been redefined by the right to be a dirty word. Yet the founders of this country were liberal. Most if not all of the progress in this country has taken place under the auspices of liberals. When the country was hanging on the edge in the 1930s, it took the vision of a liberal administration to refocus our country’s vision from greed for a few to opportunity and dignity for all. The video of JFK’s speech on being a liberal below is 17 minutes long. It is worth listening to closely to capture the full spirit.

The entirety of the speech can be found here. Below is the text is of the main sections of the speech. It is as true today as it was in 1960.

What do our opponents mean when they apply to us the label “Liberal?” If by “Liberal” they mean, as they want people to believe, someone who is soft in his policies abroad, who is against local government, and who is unconcerned with the taxpayer’s dollar, then the record of this party and its members demonstrate that we are not that kind of “Liberal.” But if by a “Liberal” they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people — their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties — someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a “Liberal,” then I’m proud to say I’m a “Liberal.”

But first, I would like to say what I understand the word “Liberal” to mean and explain in the process why I consider myself to be a “Liberal,” and what it means in the presidential election of 1960.

In short, having set forth my view — I hope for all time — two nights ago in Houston, on the proper relationship between church and state, I want to take the opportunity to set forth my views on the proper relationship between the state and the citizen. This is my political credo:

I believe in human dignity as the source of national purpose, in human liberty as the source of national action, in the human heart as the source of national compassion, and in the human mind as the source of our invention and our ideas. It is, I believe, the faith in our fellow citizens as individuals and as people that lies at the heart of the liberal faith. For liberalism is not so much a party creed or set of fixed platform promises as it is an attitude of mind and heart, a faith in man’s ability through the experiences of his reason and judgment to increase for himself and his fellow men the amount of justice and freedom and brotherhood which all human life deserves.

I believe also in the United States of America, in the promise that it contains and has contained throughout our history of producing a society so abundant and creative and so free and responsible that it cannot only fulfill the aspirations of its citizens, but serve equally well as a beacon for all mankind. I do not believe in a superstate. I see no magic in tax dollars which are sent to Washington and then returned. I abhor the waste and incompetence of large-scale federal bureaucracies in this administration as well as in others. I do not favor state compulsion when voluntary individual effort can do the job and do it well. But I believe in a government which acts, which exercises its full powers and full responsibilities. Government is an art and a precious obligation; and when it has a job to do, I believe it should do it. And this requires not only great ends but that we propose concrete means of achieving them.

Our responsibility is not discharged by announcement of virtuous ends. Our responsibility is to achieve these objectives with social invention, with political skill, and executive vigor. I believe for these reasons that liberalism is our best and only hope in the world today. For the liberal society is a free society, and it is at the same time and for that reason a strong society. Its strength is drawn from the will of free people committed to great ends and peacefully striving to meet them. Only liberalism, in short, can repair our national power, restore our national purpose, and liberate our national energies. And the only basic issue in the 1960 campaign is whether our government will fall in a conservative rut and die there, or whether we will move ahead in the liberal spirit of daring, of breaking new ground, of doing in our generation what Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman and Adlai Stevenson did in their time of influence and responsibility.

Our liberalism has its roots in our diverse origins. Most of us are descended from that segment of the American population which was once called an immigrant minority. Today, along with our children and grandchildren, we do not feel minor. We feel proud of our origins and we are not second to any group in our sense of national purpose. For many years New York represented the new frontier to all those who came from the ends of the earth to find new opportunity and new freedom, generations of men and women who fled from the despotism of the czars, the horrors of the Nazis, the tyranny of hunger, who came here to the new frontier in the State of New York. These men and women, a living cross section of American history, indeed, a cross section of the entire world’s history of pain and hope, made of this city not only a new world of opportunity, but a new world of the spirit as well.

This speech would fit well in the political landscape today. To hear the Kennedy voice once again with its compassion and vigor reminds me once again why I am a liberal and a Democrat.

Johnny, we hardly knew ye, but the words and the spirit you left with us still guides us into the future. America needs to throw off the cloak of fear and conservatism to once more embrace liberalism and hope for the future.

Sunday Funday: Don’t Feed The Fears Edition

do not feed the fears

You know if you feed the fears they grow large and demand more and more of your time and attention. They grow to the point where they take over your life and consume all your attention. The media will present more and more stuff to fear. Partaking of media pushed fear only makes the fear grow larger and larger until it totally consumes you. Beware and Don’t Feed The Fears!

Were you paying attention last week?

1) This is of course the anniversary of JFK’s assassination in 1963. Who was the governor who was also shot when Kennedy was killed?

2) WADA has called for Russian athletes to be banned from international competition. What is WADA?

3) The mastermind of the Paris bombings was killed last week. Where was this person born?

4) Interstate 94 was shut down by protestors last week over the shooting of a black man in custody by police in what city?

5) Quietly what overwhelmingly Catholic country in Europe legalized same sex marriage Monday?

6) Which two of Iowa’s congress critters voted with the opposition on the vote for the SAFE Act (to slow Syrian refugees) Thursday?

7) Ted Cruz got a big lift when what Iowa politician endorsed him Monday?

8) ISIS chose Paris to attack because they said Paris is the capital of what?

9) Just prior to the Paris attacks last week, what other major world city was attacked by suicide bombers?

10) What well known actor revealed he is HIV positive during a segment of the Today Show last week?

11) Convicted spy Johnathan Pollard was released from prison Friday. One of the most notorious spies in history, what country did Pollard spy on the US for?

12) Bernie Sanders gave a major policy speech on what issue at Georgetown University Thursday?

13) Nearly 250,000 women in Texas have attempted what medical procedure on themselves due to lack of availability of that procedure in Texas?

14) Jerry McKim, whose agency handles LIHEAP applications said that utilities sent out how many disconnect notices in September in Iowa?

15) Was he Piyush-ed out? What lesser Republican presidential candidate ‘suspended’ his campaign last week?

16) Many right wingers this week have compared their push to stop Syrian refugees to the way America treated citizens with what heritage in WWII?

17) Ben Carson compared refugees to what type of dogs?

18) The Oxford Dictionary named what non-word as its “word of the year?”

19) Shades of horrors past. What presidential candidate said muslims may need to carry some special form of ID or be registered in a database?

20) TV and Thanksgiving teamed up in 1953 to create what symbol of Americana when a buyer for Swanson way overbought turkeys for the holiday?

Happy Thanksgiving all. Celebrate safely and with meaning.


1) John Connally of Texas

2) World Anti Doping Agency

3) Belgium

4) Minneapolis

5) Ireland

6) Loebsack voted for the bill (most Repub votes) and Steve King joined Dems in voting against

7) Steve King. Kidding about the big lift

8) “prostitution and vice”

9) Beirut, Lebanon

10) Charlie Sheen

11) Israel

12) democratic socialism

13) abortion

14) 91,000 households

15) Piyush “Bobby” Jindal

16) the Japanese who were put in internment camps

17) rabid dogs

18) the crying with tears of joy emoji

19) Donald Trump. How about a yellow star er.. crescent Mr. Trump {disgusting}

20) The TV dinner

Senators Mathis, Ragan, Jochum Go To Washington To Stop Branstad

Sen.  Mathis

Sen. Mathis

Sen. Ragan

Sen. Ragan

Hats off to Iowa state Senators Liz Mathis of Cedar Rapids, Amanda Ragan of Mason City and Senate president Pam Jochum of Dubuque for taking the fight against Governor Branstad’s raid on the Medicaid program in Iowa to Washington where the asked for the agency to slow or stop the march to profitizing.

There is a finite pie of money that the Branstad administration is trying to reslice and give a large chunk to his buddies in the managed care plan business. Since the pie is finite, the only place the money going to the for-profit administrators could come from is part of the pie that is now going for health care. Somehow Branstad claims that this will be a win for those receiving Medicaid. The Branstad administration has done no analysis to show how the pie will be redistributed, they are simply in a huge hurry to turn the $4.2 billion in the program over to his buddies to run before anyone realizes they have been robbed.

Branstad was re-elected by Iowans last year despite numerous scandals. Since his reelection he has gone into hyper drive in his mission to give taxpayer money to friends of the Republican party in business. Unlike Scott Walker in Wisconsin or Rick Snyder in Michigan where the legislatures make laws to funnel the tax payer’s money to their donors, Branstad has to deal with Democrats controlling one house of the legislature who are unwilling to do his bidding. Thus Branstad is left to creating bogus executive actions to redirect money to their donors. So we have interpretation of tax laws that make no sense and a redistribution of Medicaid funds to give 3rd party administrators a big slice.

So a big thank you to Iowa’s Democrats for pulling out all the stops to see to it that Medicaid funds go to those who the funds were meant for – those who need help to get health care. Also a big thank you to the Iowa Hospitals Association which has filed a lawsuit to stop the headlong dive into making Medicaid much less workable.

Tuning in to a Medicaid listening session being held by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Thursday it became obvious very quickly that there has been very little planning by the Branstad Administration beyond cutting checks to the managed care plan companies. Calls were received from a broad cross section of people and organizations that deal with Iowa’s Medicaid program. From every corner the message was quite clear that the Branstad Administration’s only planning has been in the area of giving our money to the managed care people. One participant noted that the MCOs (managed care organizations) have been guaranteed 15% off the top. What a waste!

(side note – sounds like Branstad plans as well as George W did going in to Iraq. Just do it and everything will be alright. Now we have ISIL.)

Branstad’s recent power grabs on school funding, closing mental health facilities, Medicaid, tax treatment for businesses and other areas must be challenged vigorously. What he and his administration are doing – setting up methods to funnel tax payer money to donors and cronies – is way beyond the pale. It is way past time that Iowans stop one of the Governor’s unethical and possibly illegal moves.

Our hats off also to those citizens who are standing up and saying a loud “NO!” to Branstad. This is what democracy is about. Standing up to the bullies who try to turn government into an income redistribution system from the poor to the rich. If we work together we can stop the railroading by the likes of Branstad, Walker, Snyder, or Rick Scott in Florida.

Even if Branstad is stopped on this front, what will be his next move to move our money to his cronies? This surely will not his last attempt. This is where a vigilant democracy comes into play.

Sen. Jochum

Sen. Jochum

Grassley: Blocking Foreign Service Nominees In Time Of Crisis

May as well be in Iowa cutting grass

May as well be in Iowa cutting grass

As the Republican Party once again reacts to terrorist bombings with loud proclamations of love of country and calls to do nearly anything to protest the citizens when we turn the rock over we see what Republicans are really doing beneath the surface. And what they are really doing is everything they can to undermine the Obama administration. This should hardly be news since this has been their only basic mission since a secret meeting declared congressional war on the Obama administration on Jan. 20th, 2009.

Who can forget Mitch McConnell’s statement that “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

So while declaring themselves patriotic to the hilt, the congressional Republican Party true priorities continue to be opposing Obama at every turn. One of the leaders in this war on Obama has been our own Chuck Grassley. Yep old fumbling, bumbling Chuck with his Iowa twang has been a one man wrecking ball on Obama nominees. We have chronicled Grassley’s obstruction on blogforiowa many times including this recent post

Now with the world on heightened alert and diplomacy at a premium with friend and foe alike, Chuck Grassley uses his lofty seniority and committee assignments to block high ranking nominees to the State Department.

But the Iowa Republican also added a hold on a top State Department nominee, telling leadership that he intends to block Thomas Shannon’s nomination to be the under secretary of political affairs.

Grassley is also continuing his hold on Brian James Egan’s nomination to be a legal adviser for the department, as well as David Malcolm Robinson’s nomination to be assistant secretary for conflict and stabilization operations and coordinator for reconstruction and stabilization.

Grassley has also come under fire from Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who accused the Iowa Republican of wasting taxpayer money trying to bring down Clinton’s presidential campaign.

“Why are nonpartisan public service positions being used as political pawns, especially if they are being blocked just because Senator Grassley doesn’t want Hillary Clinton to be the next president of the United States?” the Nevada Democrat asked from the Senate floor. “How much money will Republicans in Congress waste to try to bring down Hillary Clinton? We don’t know all the numbers.”

Duly note that Grassley had 22 nominees under hold, but he lifted 20 when the light was shined on his obstruction by the Paris bombings. It is a true shame that tragedies such as that are what it takes to make Grassley do his job.

Well, priorities are priorities and playing politics with the State Department to make a Democratic administration look bad and to thwart the election of another Democrat is all in a day’s work for Grassley.

Will Iowans remember Grassley’s obstruction a year from now and elect a senator with the good of the state and the country in mind?

Stop Paul Ryan From Ending Medicare

Dave Loebsack IA02

Dave Loebsack IA02

Message from Congressman Dave Loebsack (D)

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Medicare, a program that has long been a safety net for our seniors who rely on it for their basic healthcare needs.

However, House Republicans, led by Speaker Paul Ryan want to end Medicare as we know it.

The extreme budget they’ve put forward would completely gut this program. This would hurt millions of seniors across the country.

We’ve got to stand up for our seniors now and demand that Medicare be protected.

I’m in Congress to fight for our seniors and to make sure they have the benefits they’ve worked for their entire lives so they can retire with dignity.

Stand with me now and make sure Medicare is protected.


Dave Loebsack

protect medicare

Terrorists Are The Best Friends The Right Wing Ever Had


Bombs Won’t Cut It

By Donald Kaul

When Paris suffered attacks that killed 17 last January — at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket — it responded with great class.

Parisians filled the streets, locked arm-in-arm in solidarity against terrorism. Leaders from throughout Europe (but not, alas, President Barack Obama) joined them in a show of support.

And two days after the demonstration, Socialist Prime Minister Manuel Valls gave a memorable speech to the French National Assembly supporting the government’s declared “war on terrorism” but calling for the nation to maintain its principles of religious tolerance and separation of church and state.

At which point the deputies stood and gave him an ovation, then broke into La Marseillaise. It was a wonderful moment. (The French have a great national anthem and they use it like a sword).

I doubt that moment will be repeated any time soon. The November 13 attacks in Paris ushered the entire world through yet another door, into a darker place.

It is a place of fear. If a handful of lightly armed terrorists can bring one of the world’s great cities to its knees in a single evening, killing 129 and injuring hundreds more, then who among us is safe?

It was, in a sense, more ominous than the 9/11 attacks which, while more costly in blood and treasure, seemed almost unrepeatable. We were caught unawares and took steps to ensure that we wouldn’t be again. The bad guys got lucky.

The Paris attacks demonstrate how naïve that attitude is.

How can we protect ourselves against an insidious, almost invisible army that takes advantage of the best qualities of western society — its openness, its tolerance — to do it grievous harm?

French President François Hollande responded immediately by sending warplanes to bomb ISIS strongholds in Syria. I’m sure they killed some people, maybe even some terrorists. I can understand the response. You have to do something.

But that’s not much of something. Bombs won’t cut it.

The diabolical thing about this enemy is that it doesn’t present much of a target. For all the talk of establishing a caliphate, it doesn’t have a navy or an air force or even artillery worthy of the name. It works in small, secretive networks and kills in numbers greatly disproportionate to its military strength.

We call them terrorists for a reason: They terrify us.

Politically, they’re the best friends the right wing ever had.

French National Front Leader Marine Le Pen, who has long advocated closing the doors to immigration, is having her “I told you so” moment.

As are the anti-immigrant Republicans here. They’re lining up in favor of not allowing Muslim refugees fleeing the conflict in their home country sanctuary in ours. At least two dozen Republican governors have said they would refuse such refugees.

The Democrats, including Obama, have presented a far more reasonable response — not all refugees are terrorists, stay the course, blah-blah — which sounds weak in the heated atmosphere of a presidential campaign.

Even Donald Trump’s lunatic ravings against the invasion of Mexican rapists and drug dealers sound almost reasonable now.

“Here’s the problem,” said Marco Rubio, for once not mentioning that his father was a bartender and his mother was a cleaning lady. “You allow 10,000 people in. And 9,999 of them are innocent people feeling oppression. And one of them is a well-trained ISIS fighter.”

That sort of logic is more appealing now, when we have Islamic militants on our television screens promising to come get us.

So is the dismissal of the revelations of Edward Snowden on the universal surveillance we’re being subjected to. More surveillance? Sounds safer. Bring it on.

The real question is how all of this will affect our elections next year.

Will it inspire a sense of seriousness in the electorate that has been lacking so far? Or will it bend things toward the hardliners who want to hole up in Fortress America?

We’ll see.

OtherWords columnist Donald Kaul lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.