If you are an Iowan and if you are interested in politics even at a low level it is hard not to get involved in the day to day horse race news. “Hillary on the inside with a huge lead, but it looks like Bernie is turning on some burners. Dark horse O’Malley a ways back, but running hard.”
On the other side of the ledger, “Trump jumps to the lead while throwing junk all over the track. The other horses are stumbling and tripping and falling behind fast.”
So while the horse race and the side shows and the hoopla capture our attention, we need to remember a few things about the essentials of elections that may make huge differences in the 2016 election. From the gerrymandered districts to the trumped up voting rules that make it hard for minorities, the elderly and disabled, students and immigrant citizens to vote, to the very voting machines that have been proven easily hackable and then forgotten about.
We are about 15 months from selecting a replacement for Barack Obama. The election processes that have made many elections raise questions throughout the country for the past 15 years are still in place and made even worse with new voter eligibility rules that have been passed in Republican controlled states and with some very blatant gerrymandering.
And let’s not forget those voting machines.From the time the Help America Vote Act was passed in 2002, controversy has been a byline of the system. The major problem seems to be electronic voting machines which are run using proprietary software owned by the companies that built the machines. This means that outside of doing some cursory testing, states are at the mercy of private companies for valid elections. Who can forget the video of the programmer from Florida who testified that he programmed voting machines to rig elections.
The same machines were scrapped in 2012 after a six year trial and some time in storage by Ireland because of the possibility of the machines being hacked. Yet America keeps using such machines primarily because those in charge in the various legislatures are also those who benefit most from a machine that can be hacked. Many states including Iowa have instituted a backup paper ballot system, yet do not do the random audits that would help insure that the counts between the two systems (paper and electronic counter) are in sync.
The last election cycle which was only about 9 months back and some unusual results, especially in Kansas where a widely disliked governor and senator overcame a huge deficits in the polls a couple of days before the election. Mathematician Beth Clarkson of Wichita State University has sued for audits of the state voting machines based on irregularities she saw in Sedgwick county (Wichita).
“Vote rigging is to me the most likely explanation, as opposed to ‘Oh, well those more densely populated precincts are more Republican.”
She says the voting machine results show a pattern of unusually high number of Republican ballots being cast as the voting total increased.
She notes the precincts tallied were generally in more urban locations, which don’t typically vote overwhelmingly Republican as many rural precincts do. Precincts which used manual voting showed no discrepancies.
Clarkson says the patterns are examples of what might happen if some voting systems were being sabotaged, but they don’t outright prove vote rigging. She says the only way to find out the answer is through an audit.
Irregularities were also reported in Wisconsin and Ohio that election. Let me remind you that Ohio and Wisconsin are often so called swing states. Tampering with only a few votes in either of those states could swing the election.
Just to remind us that old fashioned ways of cheating are still in vogue, Wisconsin is being sued for its outlandish gerrymander of election districts that gave Republicans an overwhelming majority in the legislature while actually garnering a minority of the total vote:
In August of 2011, the GOP controlled Wisconsin State Legislature secretly redrew the electoral map. Governor Scott Walker “quietly” signed off on the new map on the same day several state senators were up for recall. The Wisconsin Democratic Party, along with an immigrant rights organization, filed a lawsuit – but only two of the new gerrymandered districts were ordered redrawn. As a result, Republicans captured almost two-thirds of the state assembly seats – despite the fact that Democrats actually won a majority of the votes.
This was the idea all along. Plaintiffs’ attorney Peter G. Earle says:
[The] Current Plan is, by any measure, one of the worst partisan gerrymanders in modern American history. In the first election in which it was in force in 2012, the Current Plan enabled Republican candidates to win sixty of the Assembly’s ninety-nine seats even though Democratic candidates won a majority of the statewide Assembly vote. The evidence is overwhelming that the Current Plan was adopted to achieve precisely that result.
Like so many things in America these days, glitzy on the outside, rotting on the inside.
Wisconsin and Kansas are in Iowa’s neighborhood. Iowa still needs an auditing process for election day.
Wednesday evening Iowa’s own Joni Ernst proved once more that she neither understands issues nor has any idea what Iowans think when she introduced a bill to defund Planned Parenthood.
In a video on HuffPost the commentator says that the bill will redirect the money from Planned Parenthood to other “women’s health services.”
Of course Ernst claims she is doing this as a “mother and a grandmother.” This is to establish her credibility on the issue. Were she to actually listen to women, Ernst would know that most women, including Iowa women, want to have access to quality reproductive health care and counseling. Ernst’s bill is simply another iteration of the right wing’s war on women and the battle called eliminating abortion. It is so sad, but certainly a very cynical political move on the part of the Republican Party to have a woman submit such a bill.
Many women I know have used the services of Planned Parenthood of Iowa at some point in their lives. Planned Parenthood provided them with truthful, high quality medical services for women. They chose to use Planned Parenthood for various reasons but the bottom line is that PP was a trusted partner in their health care. The Republican party and Joni Ernst in particular would love nothing more than to once more take good quality health care away from women. It is shameful, just shameful.
The unspoken issue here is abortion. This is just another one of the constant attacks that right wingers launch on a legal procedure that is of great importance to women. Ernst must see herself as some kind of warrior in this battle and she is. She is just battling against her own interests and those of any female progeny. Abortions are not mandatory. Maybe she doesn’t understand that. But having safe, clean abortions performed by skilled personnel in proper settings available when needed should be the mark of a society that cares about women’s health.
One thing crusaders such as Ernst never bring up is that abortions will not be stopped even if the religious right get their way and clamp down on abortions withe the full force of law enforcement. How do we know this? Well, Abortion was illegal for a long time in the US before Roe v. Wade made it legal in the US in 1973. While there was no way to keep exacting records of those who accessed illegal abortion services, very well founded extrapolations have been made for abortions and their consequences for women. According to the Guttmacher Institute which deals in FACTS:
Illegal Abortions Were Common
Estimates of the number of illegal abortions in the 1950s and 1960s ranged from 200,000 to 1.2 million per year. One analysis, extrapolating from data from North Carolina, concluded that an estimated 829,000 illegal or self-induced abortions occurred in 1967.
One stark indication of the prevalence of illegal abortion was the death toll. In 1930, abortion was listed as the official cause of death for almost 2,700 women—nearly one-fifth (18%) of maternal deaths recorded in that year. The death toll had declined to just under 1,700 by 1940, and to just over 300 by 1950 (most likely because of the introduction of antibiotics in the 1940s, which permitted more effective treatment of the infections that frequently developed after illegal abortion). By 1965, the number of deaths due to illegal abortion had fallen to just under 200, but illegal abortion still accounted for 17% of all deaths attributed to pregnancy and childbirth that year. And these are just the number that were officially reported; the actual number was likely much higher.
Note that number rounded up is about a million. Now note that recent data pegs the number of abortions annually in the US at about a million. Again from the Guttmacher Institute:
• Some 1.06 million abortions were performed in 2011, down from 1.21 million abortions in 2008, a decline of 13%.
So the number of abortions is still about a million in the US. Note also that the population of the US is nearly twice what it was 50 years back, so the percentage of abortions is much less. Note also that abortions now are performed in safe clean surroundings by trained medical personnel. Much unlike those 50 years ago. Yes, the back alley abortionist using dirty instruments was real. So the deaths, disfigurements and painful complications of botched abortions are a thing of the past. Joni Ernst and her religious colleagues have no problem returning us to those days. You may also note that lack of access to legal abortions will not stop women from seeking out this remedy.
One reason that abortion rates are down is the availability reliable contraception. Providing contraception is one of Planned Parenthood’s biggest contributions. The religious right also opposes access to contraception. Crippling Planned Parenthood would also cripple women’s access to contraception, especially for the young and the poor – those that need contraception services most. If you don’t believe that just think about the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case.
Finally, the claim is that the federal money will be redistributed to other women’s health organizations. They will not name specific types or organizations. There is a reason for such ambiguity. You can bet those funds will be going to anti-abortion organizations. Most likely the money will end up in the hands of some anti-abortion religious counseling organization that exists only on federal money under the “faith-based initiatives” program. Faith based initiatives is an unholy alliance between government and religion that our founders feared the most. It should have never come into existence, and when it did should have been declared unconstitutional and aborted soon after.
Let us hope the women of Iowa and those Iowans who have women in their lives don’t forget this affront to women’s health care when Ernst is up for reelection. Her first 7 months have been embarrassing, now she crosses the line to shameful.
(Editor’s Note: Over tea with Tessa Lengeling, press secretary, NextGen Climate Iowa, prior to the Iowa Democratic Party Hall of Fame celebration, she said the organization had signature cards on more than 42,000 climate voters prior to the 2014 midterm elections. Zack Davis, state director, confirmed the number later in the day. That’s a lot. We talk often about the problem of money in politics, and Steyer’s billionaire status places him firmly in the one percent. Whatever one thinks of Steyer and NextGen Climate, his is one of the voices working to influence the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses, supporting progressive causes. Following is a press release from Wednesday).
NextGen Climate president Tom Steyer calls on Iowans to ask candidates to achieve more than 50 percent clean energy by 2030
Iowa Is Poised to Build the Clean Energy Economy of the Future—But Candidates Need to Do Their Part
ANKENY, Iowa—NextGen Climate President and Founder Tom Steyer today called on Iowa business and community leaders to ask candidates to lay out a plan to power our country with more than 50 percent clean energy by 2030, putting us on a path to a completely clean energy economy by 2050. This clean energy goal would more than triple renewable energy in our country, reduce pollution, lower energy costs and create millions of new jobs.
“Iowa businesses are already building the clean energy economy of the future, but we need candidates and leaders to do their part by supporting bold policies that encourage and accelerate this transition,” said NextGen Climate president Tom Steyer. “With the right leadership, Americans can come together and—just as we have done so many times before—turn climate change into a story of American ingenuity and foresight.”
Following a tour of the Des Moines Area Community College Campus Energy Center, which teaches students to assemble and maintain wind turbines, Steyer joined with business and community leaders to discuss Iowa’s clean energy leadership. During the roundtable discussion, Steyer praised Iowans for proving that energy sources like wind can power communities and drive economic growth—and laid out the case for why candidates need to outline plans to achieve at least 50 percent clean or carbon-free energy by 2030.
Businesses in Iowa are already leading the transition to a clean energy economy—creating jobs and driving economic growth in the process. A new report from the American Wind Industry Association and the Wind Energy Foundation shows that the wind industry already supports up to 7,000 jobs in the state, along with 13 factories and assembly plants. Wind already makes up more than 28% of Iowa’s electricity—and Department of Energy data shows that could increase to more than 40% in the next five years. Business is doing its part to build a more prosperous economy for our country, but now we need leaders to step up and embrace ambitious—but achievable— goals to accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy.
Steyer’s visit is part of NextGen Climate’s ongoing campaign to call on our leaders and candidates to embrace policies that accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy. Earlier this month, Steyer laid out the economic case for clean energy during a visit with New Hampshire business leaders and on Friday, NextGen Climate released a new video “The Time is Now” and white paper “The Economic Case for Clean Energy,” highlighting how the transition to clean energy is already underway.
FBI whistle blower Coleen Rowley and former CIA analyst Ray McGovern to speak at organized events in nine Iowa cities beginning Sept. 24
IOWA CITY — The three Iowa chapters of Veterans for Peace announce a nine-city tour of Iowa by former FBI agent and whistle blower Coleen Rowley and retired CIA analyst Ray McGovern beginning Thursday, Sept. 24.
McGovern and Rowley seek to raise the level of Iowans understanding of current national security issues. They will focus on specific issues that Iowa caucus-goers may raise at the Feb. 1 caucuses, and on specific questions that Iowans may ask of presidential candidates visiting the state.
The speaking tour includes stops in Cedar Rapids, Cedar Falls, Waterloo, Davenport, Parnell, Iowa City, Ames and Des Moines.
Between them, Rowley and McGovern have 51 years of service in the highest levels of the FBI and CIA. Since leaving the agencies, they worked relentlessly for peace and justice. Their nine-city tour begins Sept. 24 in Dubuque and ends in Sept. 30 in Des Moines. The tour is sponsored by the three Iowa chapters of Veterans for Peace.
“It is refreshing to me and I hope to many others that there is a chance to hear intelligence professionals who are trained and practiced in getting and relaying the truth,” said Paul Appell, member of Veterans for Peace, Chapter 161.
“The foreign policy and war national issues will not be ‘burning’ ones in Iowa unless caucus goers take the initiative to ask,” Rowley said. “Therein lies our real and only mission, our real challenge, to somehow activate them to ask.”
“I think we could surely be attentive to the budget, defense and security issues and how they impinge on efforts toward a fairer country, repair of infrastructure, etc.,” McGovern said.
The public is invited to attend without admission fees.
Rowley McGovern Schedule
All events are free and open to the public, sponsored by Iowa Veterans for Peace
Thursday, Sept. 24, 6 p.m. University of Dubuque. Contact Christine Darr, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friday, Sept 25, 7 p.m. Veterans Memorial Building, 50 Second Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids, Contact Joe Aossey, email@example.com.
Saturday, Sept 26, Cedar Falls/Waterloo
News Talk sponsored by University of Northern Iowa Democracy Project. University Book Store, 1009 W. 23rd St., Cedar Falls.
Law Court Theater, Waterloo Center for the Arts. “Addressing/Redressing Global & Local Violence.” Waterloo/Cedar Falls events, contact Tom Kessler firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sunday, Sept, 27,
Rogalski Center, St. Ambrose University, Davenport. Co-sponsored by the Quad City Times. New Ideas Forum. Contact Paul Foley. 563-333-6025, Foleypaulj@sau.edu.
JPOG (Just Peace Outreach Group) West Union Mennonite Church, 3253 305 St, Parnell. Finger food potluck, 6 p.m., 7 p.m. program. Bring finger food to share and your own table service. Contact Roger Farmer, 319-653-2547 or Jane Yoder-Short, email@example.com.
Monday, Sept. 28, 7:30 p.m. Iowa City, University of Iowa Lecture Series “Is Peace Possible?” Englert Theatre.
Tuesday, Sept 29,
Iowa City Foreign Relations Council. Both Iowa City events, contact Ed Flaherty, 319-621-6766. Flahertyem@aol.com.
Ames Public Library, Farwell T. Brown Auditorium. Contact Mary Logsdon. 515-239-5633. Mlogsdon@amespubliclibrary.org.
Wednesday, Sept 30, 7 p.m., Des Moines, Drake University. Contact Gil Landolt, Peacevet@hotmail.com , 515-333-2180.
For more information contact John Jadryev 319-430-2019 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
DES MOINES — Iowa Democratic Party Chair Dr. Andy McGuire today released the following statement on the bill from U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst to defund Planned Parenthood health clinics:
“As a doctor, I understand that the quality, affordable health services provided by Planned Parenthood clinics throughout Iowa and nearby states allow nearly 60,000 women and men to meet their health care needs. By singling out this organization, Senator Ernst and her fellow Republicans are constructing economic and accessibility barriers to health care that will make it harder for women and families to lead healthy lives.”
To weigh in on the bill contact Senator Joni Ernst’s nearest office:
Washington, D.C. – 202-224-3254
Des Moines – 515-284-4574
Davenport – 563-322-0677
Cedar Rapids – 319-365-4504
Sioux City – 712252-1550
Council Bluffs – 712-352-1167
Loebsack to Bring “Coffee with Your Congressman Tour” to Davenport, Clinton
IOWA CITY – Congressman Dave Loebsack announced today that he will continue his Coffee with Your Congressman tour this Friday, July 31, with stops in Davenport and Clinton. At each stop, Loebsack will mingle with local patrons at diners and coffee shops to chat one-on-one and hear directly from Iowans. The Coffee with Your Congressman tour will make periodic stops throughout Iowa’s Second District. The event is open to the public and media.
Davenport Coffee with Your Congressman Stop
Fresh Deli by Nostalgia Farms
421 W. River Dr.
Clinton Coffee with Your Congressman Stop
517 N 2nd St.
The loud but small-sized movement to raise the minimum wage is made up of good people. There are not enough of them to make a difference. Their voice is amplified in corporate news outlets, but neither the federal nor state governments have acted to raise the minimum wage in a long time.
Today the Johnson County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to discuss a county ordinance to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2017. Iowa City native David Goodner feels this is not enough and called for raising it to $15. As we posted yesterday, Iowa labor commissioner Michael Mauro said the ordinance Johnson County is discussing is inconsistent with Iowa law and therefore unconstitutional. The county attorney has not reported to the board on the legality of a potential ordinance.
Goodner wrote in the print edition of today’s Iowa City Press Citizen, “According to the Iowa Policy Project, a livable wage for a single worker in Iowa is $13.04 an hour. A single mom with kids needs $28.07 an hour to make ends meet. Married workers with two kids need $16.89 an hour each.”
The numbers are a familiar construct and seem reasonable to progressive readers who follow the Iowa Policy Project. Peter Fisher and Lily French’s article, “The Cost of Living in Iowa – 2014 Edition” is well researched and often quoted. “The Johnson County Board of Supervisors know what the research says. So why not $15 an hour now?” wrote Goodner. “Why should workers have to wait to earn a livable wage?”
Where is the groundswell of support from the 3.3 million U.S. workers who are at or below minimum wage to raise it? The answer is complicated, but Pew Research Center gets us started in answering the question.
People at or below the federal minimum wage are disproportionately young (50.4% are ages 16 to 24; 24% are teenagers age 16 to 19); mostly (77%) white; nearly half being white women; and largely part-time workers (64% of the total), according to Pew. They work in food preparation and serving; sales; personal care and service; office and administrative support; building and grounds maintenance; and other low-skill occupations.
Work needs doing and competitive compensation is required of businesses to get it done. If minimum wage gets the job done, and for the most part it has, there is no natural incentive to raise it.
Some try to subsist on a single minimum wage job. It is hard to tell from the Pew numbers how many people that is. What is borne out by my experience is it is unreasonable to assume people work a single minimum wage job to make household ends meet. Actually, as Iowa Policy Project research shows, it’s impossible.
At the same time, the old sawhorse of taking the current federal minimum wage of $7.25, multiplying it by 40 hours per week for a result of $290 per week gross income is essentially meaningless. It is no justification for much of anything. Minimum wage jobs are worked in a complex cultural context that matters more than the rate of pay.
From talking to dozens of low wage workers, I’ve found — in every case — taking a minimum wage or lowly paid job has been a trade-off of priorities and a temporary measure for those earning an hourly wage. What matters more is a social support network that includes income from a second job, pension or other household members; shared housing; alternative food sources; shared or public transportation; and no-cost child care from family and friends. Health care is a significant expense in terms of time off work, deductibles and co-pays. Our health care system has a long way to go to be affordable for low wage workers.
If the Johnson County supervisors decide to raise the county minimum wage, it would in part reflect a dissatisfaction with state and federal government for failing to act. People can demand what they want, and low-wage workers will take it.
People who talk about raising the minimum wage don’t get that cancer, hip replacements, divorces, incarceration, poor diet, addictions, lawsuits, sore backs, weak knees, bullying, discrimination, firearms, transportation, lack of access to health care and everything else involved in living in our society enter into the picture.
If government is going to raise the minimum wage, be quick about it. Then get on to solving more pressing problems that impact low wage workers.
No one in American labor history has won the mythic status of Mary “Mother” Jones (1837-1930).
This Irish immigrant, who lost her family to disease and her business to the Great Chicago Fire, became the nation’s roving rabble-rouser in the final third of her life.
Traveling from picket line to coal mine to jail cells, this spirited figure rallied many a strike. Today she rests in the Union Miners’ Cemetery in Mt. Olive, Ill., surrounded by the coal miners for whom she fought.
A unique two CD musical compilation brings together songs about her, coal mining and a working class fighting spirit.
The CD benefits the Mother Jones Monument over her grave, recently restored with the fund-raising efforts of the Illinois AFL-CIO.
Most of the 35 songs here are in a country or folk vein, some very traditional, others more contemporary in their sound. There are a few “name” musicians one might recognize here, like Steve Earle with Del McCoury and Billy Bragg. The majority are musicians inspired by a colorful woman, who knew well how music could lift the spirits and how her own appearance, dressed in Victorian garb, was theatrical itself.
A special treat is the original recording from 1930s-40s “singing cowboy” Gene Autry, who had his first hit in 1931, “The Death of Mother Jones.”
Liner notes from Dr. Rosemary Feurer tells the impact this woman’s life had, both the reality of her spirited interventions and the inspiration she was to others.
The CD is available for $24, including shipping, from http://www.motherjonesmuseum.org/catalog.
Practical Farmers of Iowa, Cover Crop Solutions and the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation Present Webinar on the Basics of Cover Crops
Thursday, July 30, at 1 p.m.
Mark your calendar for a webinar to be held on July 30 that will offer great tips from experts for those new to planting cover crops. Explore what works, what doesn’t and understand the benefits of cover crops. “Fall planting of cover crops has really taken off in Iowa. during recent years as more farmers are seeking information and are beginning to understand the benefits,” said Rick Robinson, IFBF environmental policy adviser.
Sarah Carlson from Practical Farmers of Iowa and Tracy Blackmer from Cover Crops Solutions will be the speakers. Join the webinar by keeping this email and accessing the webinar page shortly before 1 p.m. this Thursday, July 30, by clicking here.
Audio will be through your computer speakers. At any time before the webcast, please click here for information or to to test your computer’s ability to participate.
Word came last night of Herald Smith’s passing. Smith was founder of CRST, Inc., the trucking company he famously started in a refurbished chicken coop in 1955. When I joined the company in 1984 they generated $60 million in annual revenues. According to the Cedar Rapids Gazette current annual revenues are $1.5 billion. Being part of the growth of a local company during deregulation was a wild, hard ride. I spent more than 25 years in transportation and thanks to Smith and his children I learned more about modern business than I thought possible. My career in transportation informs my outlook on labor, the law, business development, politics and more. I didn’t know Smith well, but I did know him and cherish my interactions with him.
Robin McDowell, Martha Mendoza and Margie Mason posted their latest installment in the Associated Press story about the use of slavery to supply U.S. and other markets with inexpensive seafood. After AP broke the story of slaves in Indonesia, the slavers changed registry and moved to Papua, New Guinea. AP used satellites to locate the fishing vessels. The New York Times is now covering the story. Still buying Fancy Feast, Iams and Meow Mix?
The agreement between the P5+1 nations and and Iran seems unlikely to be blocked by the Congress. “The response has been positive across the board,” Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said to the Washington Post of Senate Democrats, adding, he doesn’t think the tens of millions of dollars opponents plan to spend on ads slamming the accord will ultimately have a real impact.
The Des Moines Register broke a story about three Iowa landowners suing the Iowa Utilities Board over property rights yesterday. The debate over the Bakken Crude Oil Pipeline will be more about eminent domain and property rights than about environmental issues. This action is evidence the legal challenges have begun, and can be expected to continue.
Former Iowa Secretary of State, and current Iowa labor commissioner Michael Mauro weighed in on the Johnson County discussion about raising the county minimum wage to $10.10 per hour by 2017. The ordinance would be inconsistent with state law, and therefore unconstitutional, according to Mauro. Proponents of the ordinance disagree. The board of supervisors is waiting for the counsel of county attorney Janet Lyness and have a working session to discuss the ordinance scheduled on Wednesday.
I got trolled on Twitter last night after posting this tweet:
— Paul Deaton (@PaulDeaton_IA) July 27, 2015
Rule #1: don’t feed the trolls.
“You’re just part of this thing and I want to see how far it will go,” said Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones to Rolling Stone in a July 27 post. Richards is producing his first solo album in two decades and a video of “Trouble” is at the link.