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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?


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


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

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.

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

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.

Let’s Stop The Bakken Oil Pipeline

Bakken Pipeline Proposed Route
There is more than one pipeline that oil companies want to build in the US. While the Keystone Pipeline gets most of the notice, another environmentally unsound pipeline is looking to dissect Iowa and spoil some of the world’s best farmland. Here is what Iowa CCI suggests you can do:


A Fortune 500 oil corporation down in Texas is planning on building a dangerous oil pipeline through 17 Iowa counties in order to transport crude, dirty, explosive Bakken oil being hydrofracked in North Dakota down through Iowa and Illinois and on to the Gulf of Mexico.


Attend the information hearing closest to you and voice your opposition:

Dec. 1: Inwood Community Center, Inwood, 1 p.m.; Terrace View Event Center, Sioux Center, 6 p.m.; Comfort Inn & Suites, Fort Madison, 1 p.m.; River Valley Lodge,Farmington,6 p.m.

Dec. 2: Sheldon Community Services, Sheldon, 9 a.m.; Cherokee Community Center,Cherokee, 3 p.m.; Jefferson County Fairgrounds Activity Building, Fairfield, 9 a.m.

Dec. 3: Buena Vista University, Anderson Auditorium, Storm Lake, 9 a.m.; Gateway Church of the Nazarene, Community Room, Oskaloosa, 3 p.m.; Memorial Hall,Sigourney, 9 a.m.

Dec. 4: Ankeny Parks and Recreation, Lakeside Center, 400 N.W. Lakeshore Drive,Ankeny, 3 p.m.; DMACC Newton Conference Center, Newton, 9 a.m.

Dec. 15: Sac Community Center, Sac City, 1 p.m.’ Calhoun County Expo Center,Rockwell City, 6 p.m.; Boone County Fairgrounds, Community Building, Boone, 6 p.m.; Gates Memorial Auditorium, Nevada, 1 p.m.

Dec. 16: Iowa Central Community College, East Campus, Triton Room, Fort Dodge, 9 a.m.; Bridge View Center, Ottumwa, 9 a.m.

Sunday Funday – Sit In At Walmart Edition

you folks want to take the quiz?

you folks want to take the quiz?

Thursday night some truly surprising news came out of Los Angeles – an old fashioned labor sit-in protest by employees was held at one of the LA area Walmarts. Reports that came out were a bit confusing to me and the protest was ended by county police a few hours later. However, I understood that the protestors were joined by a large number of supporters. Once more this year protests are planned for Walmart across the country on Black Friday. We wish them the best.

While that may have not been reported, much else was last week. Were you paying attention?

1) In case we forgot who was president, Obama had a very active week last week. Early in the week he announced an agreement with China on what major world problem?

2) Perhaps some of the most astonishing news of the week when the ESA announced the landing of a spacecraft on what?

3) The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) was threatened with a lawsuit for defamation by what right wing extremist radio host?

4) Coming back from a long layoff, Democrats in the US senate immediately scheduled a vote on the Keystone Pipeline in an effort to save whose senate seat?

5) November 19th, 1863. President Lincoln offers a few short remarks at the dedication of a battlefield as a cemetery located in what city?

6) What major Iowa grocery chain announced their filing of chapter 11 bankruptcy and sale to Associated Wholesale Grocers?

7) Keeping up his active week, President Obama authorized a plan that would double what?

8) November 18th, 1883. School teacher Charles Dowd proposes a solution to one of America’s most confusing problems. This problem made it nearly impossible to co-ordinate schedules in more than one town. What did Dowd propose?

9) Major extremist right wing heart throb Ted Cruz was hit hard on Facebook by his adoring fans when he made a sarcastic post aimed at what hot button topic?

10) Republicans promised to hold up the approval of Atty. Gen. nominee Loretta Lynch over what issue?

11) Last year was a disastrous roll out for this new government program. This year things are expected to go much smoother for the re-enrollments under what new program?

12) The Obama administration also floated a couple of balloons on possible action on two hot button issues. Can you name both of these policies?

13) For those of us who fear heights, Wednesday scared us to the quick as two window washers dangled precariously before they were rescued at what NYC building?

14) AFSCME, the union representing some 40,000 Iowa government worker, offered their proposal for a new contract this week. What was their proposed wage increase?

15) Procter & Gamble announced their first sale in their effort to slim their product lines. Warren Buffet bought what battery company for $6.4 B?

Bonus question: The governor of Arkansas announced he will pardon a young man convicted of drug offenses. What is notable about this pardon?

This hasn’t been a good year for Walmart. Early this week they issued a memo ordering their stores to sell more groceries and do a better job of rotating stock. They have been hurt badly by supporting cuts to food stamps and by their own labor policies. Too bad for them.


1) Greenhouse gas emissions

2) comet

3) Rush Limbaugh (it is ok to laugh)

4) Mary Landrieu

5) Gettysburg, Pa.

6) Dahl’s

7) troops in Iraq

8) uniform time zone plan consisting of 4 time zones

9) net neutrality – seems right wingers want NN also

10) immigration

11) Affordable Care Act.

12) executive orders on not deporting certain immigrants and a much higher minimum wage for federal contractors.

13) #1 World Trade Center

14) 8% over 2 years

15) Duracell

Bonus: They are father and son. Governor Mike Beebe and son Kyle Beebe

America Needs You, Harry Truman

Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to look to the past for guidance. Take a lesson from 2014 and prepare for 2016.

Harry Truman went into the 1948 election in about the worst position he could possibly be in. Republicans and Dixiecrats opposed him and the media was maybe only a bit friendlier than today. But Truman refused to play games. He went out and told the truth. Despite the filters of the media, the electorate heard and understood. Truman put the blame for lack of action where the blame belonged – a do-nothing Republican congress.

We have the most do-nothing congress ever right now caused by Republican obstruction. Did we hear that during the election? Did we hear much of the bad policies espoused by Republicans. Did we shout from the rooftop that it is and always had been Democrats who will fight for the worker, the farmer, the educator, in fact all but the top 1%?

Take it Harry:

America Needs You, Harry Truman

Time To Find Out Republican Policies, America!

Bernie Sanders on the election

From Bernie Sanders:

Here’s the interesting point. You talk about Republican principles. The Republicans forgot to tell the American people what their principles are, so let me make a prediction. Let me make a prediction, and a year from now invite me back and we’ll see if I am right or wrong. This is exactly what they will do. The American people want to expand Social Security. What the Republicans will do is attempt to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid and give huge tax breaks to the wealthy and large corporation. They will do exactly what the American people don’t want them to do. You talked about raising the minimum wage. They don’t believe in that. They want to do away with the concept of the minimum wage, so people will work for five bucks or four bucks an hour.

….They will make the effort, and you talk about the Republican principles are to make the very richest people in this country richer at the expense of working families.

Now that the election is over, perhaps we will finally hear Republican stances on issues. It may seem a bit backwards to make the electorate wait until after the election, but that seems to be the way things work. After all how many of us would have been in such a hurry to vote for the likes of Joni Ernst or David Young had it been made known that they were in favor of turning Social Security funds over to Wall Street gamblers or making Medicare a voucher system? Perhaps if media would have pursued the real issues we could have found out, but that might require making someone uncomfortable.

Joni Ernst ran from interviews with the Des Moines Register, Cedar Rapids Gazette and Dubuque Telegraph. Do you understand why now? Not because of her claim that these papers had already made up their minds. No, she ran at full speed away from interviews with potential real journalists who would not take obfuscation nor avoidance as acceptable answers. If I had something to hide – like a really unpopular stance on minimum wage – I would have run also. Especially when all I wanted to do was talk about how Bruce Braley dissed Chuck Grassley and how to castrate hogs.

Of course, Ernst was only one of hundreds of Republican candidates whose whole campaign was based on framing their opponent as the devil incarnate and then claiming your not him. If Jesus Christ would have run he would have been assailed as anti-capitalist, from the Middle East (we all know what that means) and in favor of letting the poor get health care. Then Jesus’ Republican opponent would come on and say “I am not Jesus!” and never mention where he or she stood on issues.

Naturally there will also be many commercials stating you love motherhood, apple pie and America’s soldiers.

One of the most comical vents in the whole campaign was to see Mitch McConnell in Kentucky avoid getting cornered on the ACA (which he will now attempt to destroy) and ends up saying that the K-nect – the Kentucky ACA website is really good and he won’t change it. Just gut its purpose, but he couldn’t admit it.

So now that the election is over we will finally get a look at what the Tea Party really has in mind for America and its states. Their police can be summed up rather simply – what do their billionaire buyers want and probably more important, what do they NOT want. They do not want Social Security, but if there is some sort of mandatory long term program such as SS, let the gamblers on Wall Street run it. Medicare? It will be pretty hard to kill, so lets let the insurance companies run it. Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment and any welfare can all be lumped under “if people are poor it is their fault and the government shouldn’t spend my money to help anyone.”

Right off the bat we can expect assaults on Dodd-Franks so financial institutions can shed the awful burden of having to deal honestly with consumers. Then we can fully expect an assault on the ACA. if the Supreme Court fails to do its job and cripple the ACA over a typo in the bill.

All these will be tied to legislation that if not signed will shut the government down. Did Ernst give any idea she would be involved in such shenanigans? Well I guess it was on a need to know basis and the only ones that seems to need to know were the billionaires she will be working for. Iowans probably couldn’t understand such details anyway.

Along the way we will no doubt have some high sounding legislation that cuts minimum wage, makes bigger cuts to education or food stamps and maybe a special one that allows employers to cut overtime pay.

Many among us tried to get warnings out, but that is a hard task when the airwaves and broadcast media are filled with right-wing messages and there are few outlets for liberal messages anymore.

Task #1 is to save internet neutrality. Without the internet we are nearly shut out of communications options.

Task #2 is to let our representatives know where Americans stand on issues.

Task #3 is to get involved with your local Democratic Party. Become the party and fight for liberal policies.

Joni Ernst Got Away With Deceiving The Public About Her Extreme Ideology

For the record we’re still waiting for the backlash.