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Branstad, Snyder Typify Republican Party

branstad2

When I think of Republicans, especially Republicans in power I think of incompetence beyond anyone’s worst nightmare. In their drive to enrich their wealthy donors, they push hard for cuts to any programs that help the poor and help maintain the middle class so they can cut taxes for the rich. Seems like there are as many examples of Republican incompetence especially in the nation’s governorships as there are grains of sand on a beach.

This week we have a couple of shining examples of Republican incompetence at their worst.

Here in Iowa old bumbley, stumbley Terry Branstad is sticking with his brilliant idea to take money from a tax earmarked for school improvement and use it for something else. It almost makes no difference what the something else is. This is the 3rd time in only 7 months that Branstad has taken aims at cutting school funds in some form or another. This is a game plan that has been used over and over again across the country to force the privatization or profitization of public schools systems.

Starve the beast it is called. The beast in this case is government. One of the largest governmental outlays in most states, Iowa included, is for public schools. Republicans believe that if they slowly take the money away from the school systems, the systems will eventually turn to a profitized system as a solution. They do so in what has been described as the “boil the frog” method. As a frog is cooked the heat is slowly turned up in such a way that when the frog finally realizes he is being boiled alive he is incapable of escaping because he is too far gone. By slowly removing money from the schools, schools must change how they function and will continue to do so until they no longer function.

So late June, Branstad vetoed a compromise from the legislature that would have given a much needed shot of one time money claiming Iowa could not afford it. Just a couple of months later Branstad moved unilaterally to cut a long existing tax on consumables for businesses. As stated by state Sen. Joe Bolkcom of Iowa City at that time:

Today, however, after large corporations lobbied him for a $37 million, on-going tax cut that legislators had rejected, Governor Branstad says Iowa can afford it. Furthermore, he says he doesn’t need the Legislature’s approval to do it.

“The agenda for the October 13 meeting of the Administrative Rules Review Committee reveals that the Branstad-Reynolds Administration is proposing a rule change to exempt consumable supplies used in manufacturing from the Iowa sales tax. If the Branstad-Reynolds Administration does not withdraw this rule, it will take effect on January 1, 2016, even though this $37 million annual tax cut has never been approved by the Iowa Legislature.

“This rule would change more than 15 years of existing policy.”

Less taxes = less money for schools.

Now Branstad wants the one percent sales tax that was long ago approved as earmarked for schools to be split for what he deems as a crisis of water quality in Iowa. There has been a crisis in water quality in Iowa for a long time. Branstad sees this as yet another opportunity to cut into school funding. If this attempt fails, expect another assault on school funding from the governor claiming some other crisis next year. Cutting school funding is his mission. All while claiming to be a friend of Iowa schools.

Meanwhile in Michigan, a real crisis of monumental proportions with toxic lead in the drinking water of Flint is being met with perhaps the worst leadership possible. What Flint needed was a leader who would have stopped the poisonous water from flowing into homes in Flint immediately when the problem was found. Then the legislature should have been called into session and money and manpower should have been dedicated to fixing what is a huge public health problem immediately.

Since Governor Snyder was part of the problem his first move as state leader was to try to hide the problem. His next order of business was to try to slough the blame onto someone else. Such tactics never work and are not doing so in the Flint crisis. Now, even at this late date Snyder still refuses to deal with reality and deal with Flint as the emergency it is. Instead he is offering Flint residents a discount for the poison that flows into their homes in the guise of water.

The connecting theme between Branstad and Snyder is that both are dedicated to continuing to deliver tax cuts to the rich. Cutting taxes for the wealthy is the connecting theme for incompetence in the Republican governor’s chairs across the country. Brownback in Kansas has driven his state to near bankruptcy in pursuit of cutting taxes while ruining public schools. Christie in New Jersey diverts federal money to cover huge budget holes. Bevin in Kentucky has already embarked on a path to take away health care from the poor and no doubt will slash other programs for the holy grail of tax cuts.

Flint water sample (hat tip to wnem.com)

Flint water sample (hat tip to wnem.com)

Is Iowa On The Brink Of An Education Crisis?

Iowa Capitol

Iowa Capitol

Action alert from Progress Iowa:

The caucuses are over, but the legislature is still in session, and there’s a lot of work left to be done.

With the help of Public Policy Polling, we recently surveyed Iowans across the state, and the results were clear:

THE VAST MAJORITY OF IOWANS BELIEVE OUR CHILDREN DESERVE AT LEAST A 4% INCREASE IN EDUCATION FUNDING

We need your help, let your state lawmakers know they cannot run from this important issue and that our children deserve better funding.

Below is a list of upcoming legislative forums. Please attend a forum near you and tell GOP lawmakers to support at least a 4% increase in education funding!

UPCOMING LEGISLATIVE FORUMS/MEETINGS

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 5TH 2016

Representative Linda Miller-District 94
9am
Devil’s Glen Hy-Vee
2900 Devils Glen Rd, Bettendorf, IA 52722

Senator Dan Zumbach-District 48
CLICK HERE to TWEET @DanZumbach to fund education today!
10am
Delaware County Farm Bureau
115 E Delaware St, Manchester, IA 52057

Senator Randy Feenstra-District 2
CLICK HERE to TWEET @RandyFeenstra to fund education today!
12pm
Danny’s Sports Spot
1013 S 2nd St, Cherokee, IA 51012

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 6TH 2016

Senator Tim Kapucian-District 20
9am
First Presbyterian Church
1025 5th Ave, Grinnell 50112

11am
Farm Bureau Office
212 W State St.
Williamsburg, IA 52361

1:30pm
Keystone Library
93 Main St. Keystone, IA 52249

Representative Ralph Watts-District 19
9am
Redfield American Legion
612 N Main St. Redfield, IA 50233

Representative Sandy Salmon-District 53
9am
Community Room
723 Main St. Plainfield, IA 50666

Senator Ken Rozenboom-District 40 and Representative Tedd Gassman-District 7
9:30am
Bridge View Center
102 Church St, Ottumwa, IA 52501

Senator Tom Shipley-District 11
10am
Cumberland Fire Station
216 Main St. Cumberland, IA 50843

Representative Zach Nunn-District 30
CLICK HERE to TWEET @FriendsforZach to fund education today!
10am
Hy-Vee Club Room
108 8th St. SW Altoona, IA 50009

Senator Mark Segebart-District 60 and Representative Brian Best-District 12
10am
Carroll Dental Associates
1406 US-71, Carroll, IA 51401

Representative Sandy Salmon-District 63
11am
Community Room
113 3rd St. Frederika, IA 50631

Why We Should Say Yes To DC Statehood

And now for a refreshing change of topic!

 

Dave Loebsack Introduces Legislation To Reunite Deported Pastor And Family

Pastor Max and family

IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) – There’s a new push to bring Pastor Max Villatoro back to the United States – a bill in Washington, D.C.

Thursday U.S. Congressman Dave Loebsack announced the bill “For the relief of Max Villatoro.” The bill would allow Villatoro to be issued “an immigrant visa or for adjustment of status to that of an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence.”

Rep. Loebsack is with Iowa’s Second District which encompasses Iowa City. That’s where Villatoro lived for many years.

Villatoro was the pastor at First Mennonite Church of Iowa City. He was deported to his native country of Honduras in March 2015. It was part of a national sweep of more than 2,000 illegal immigrants with criminal convictions.

Federal paperwork showed Villatoro illegally migrated to the U.S. in 1995. He then pleaded guilty in 1999 to drunken driving and tampering with records charges. In 2006, Homeland Security pursued deportation.  Villatoro was arrested by immigration officials on his way to work March 3, 2015.

Since 1999, Villatoro married, had four kids and became a Mennonite pastor in Iowa City.

Villatoro’s impending deportation sparked several protests in Iowa City.  Protestors said his case showed a flaw in the immigration system. They even delivered petitions to the Omaha Immigrations and Customs Enforcement offices calling for his release.

The Iowa City Federation of Labor passed a resolution Thursday commending Congressman Loebsack for sponsoring the bill.

Federation president Jesse Case said “Max contributed greatly to the local community, his church and his family. Ripping him from his family and community was wrong and it’s a breath of fresh air to have Congressman Loebsack work to keep the plight of Max alive and work for his return.”

At jgmimmigration.com, Gabe Ortiz writes: “As beloved faith leader in his Iowa City community for two decades, Pastor Max should not have been considered a high priority for removal under the immigration enforcement policies outlined in a November 2014 memo from Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Johnson.

(click here to read more)

Iowa Democrats Should Be Proud Today

democrats hillary and bernieStatement from IDP Chair on Tonight’s Historically Close Caucus Results

More Than 170,000 Iowa Democrats Come Out to Support Our Outstanding, Pro-Middle Class Candidates

DES MOINES—IDP Chair Dr. Andy McGuire released the following statement on tonight’s 2016 Iowa Democratic Precinct Caucuses:

“Tonight we saw an historically close Iowa Democratic Caucus that featured one of our strongest turnouts ever and passion and energy from Democrats all across our state.

“After a year where Iowans took the time to see candidates, ask them thoughtful questions, and became volunteers and leaders themselves, tonight 171,109 Iowa Democrats came together with their neighbors to engage in a spirited discussion on the future of our country. We saw passionate, engaged Iowans turn out in all 99 counties, and for the first time ever, the IDP ran both a Tele-Caucus and satellite caucus locations, fulfilling our promise to expand participation and improve on an already incredible process.

“The results tonight are the closest in Iowa Democratic caucus history. Hillary Clinton has been awarded 699.57 state delegate equivalents, Bernie Sanders has been awarded 695.49 state delegate equivalents, Martin O’Malley has been awarded 7.68 state delegate equivalents and uncommitted has been awarded .46 state delegate equivalents. We still have outstanding results in one precinct (Des Moines—42), which is worth 2.28 state delegate equivalents. We will report that final precinct when we have confirmed those results with the chair.

“I want to congratulate all of our candidates for running terrific campaigns and thank them for taking the time to travel across our great state to share their visions for the country. In particular, I want to thank Governor Martin O’Malley for the time he devoted to meeting with Iowans and for sharing his vision of continued progress all across our state. His distinguished record as a mayor and governor as well as his plans for continued progress inspired the people of our state, and I look forward to his continued service to the nation and our working families.

“Finally, I want to thank the thousands of volunteers who helped run our precinct caucus locations all across the state. And most of all, I want to thank all of the Iowa Democrats who came out tonight to caucus and make their voice heard.”

Caucusing: As Easy As Voting, Just Takes Longer And Is Way More Fun

Iowa-Dem-Caucus-Logo_F

Democrats, progressives, here is your to-do list for today:

  1. Find my caucus location.
  2. Go to my caucus.

That is all.  Go to your caucus. Your caucus is in your neighborhood so weather should not deter you. You may register to vote at your caucus. You don’t have to do any math. Someone else will do the math.  You don’t have to answer any questions. You don’t even have to speak. Just show up and vote.  Thank you and Democracy thanks you.

Click here to find your caucus location:

Whereinthehellismycaucus?

For more info., caucus start times and Q & A, go to http://iowademocrats.org/about-iowa-caucuses/

Official start time is 7:00 but you should arrive early for sign-in.

 

Caucusing Made Easy

While this is a video from the Sanders campaign the mechanics of caucusing are standard and well illustrated here.

Please pay close attention to your caucus leader. He or she only does this once every 4 years. While we (yes, I am one) have been trained, there are many little rules to follow closely to make the caucus work. So we will take our time to make sure we follow the rules.

The eyes of America are on Iowa. We are all Democrats and we all have nearly the exact same goals in mind. We vary mostly in approach. Democrats in, Democrats coming out. And for the sake of the country may we win in the fall.

Sunday Funday: Happy Caucus Eve

Who will emerge tomorrow night?

Who will emerge tomorrow night?

Well I guess this is Iowa’s version of the Super Bowl. The eyes of the nation, and some around the world will be watching to see what the farmers, factory workers, clerks, small business owners, students and professionals that call Iowa home will do as they gather in community centers across the state tomorrow. Then at 9PM as if ordered by some supreme master people and equipment will be leaving Iowa en masse to swarm on the next step in the process.

While Tuesday morning may feel like the day after Christmas to many here in Iowa – you know the “is the magic really over?” feeling – Mother Nature has already chosen an activity for us. Snow removal. One of Iowa’s favorite wintertime activities will be there waiting for us the next morning. Isn’t Mother Nature wonderful?

Were you paying attention?

1) When the clown bus unloaded in Des Moines Thursday night and attendance was taken before the Republican debate one was missing. Which one?

2) Friday (Jan. 29) was the seventh anniversary of the Fair Pay Act being signed into law. This law is better known by what person’s name?

3) Iowa’s caucus system was forced to move to much earlier in the process following new rules for selecting Democratic delegates following what tumultuous convention?

4) As the biggest newspaper in the first state test of presidential politics, the Des Moines Register endorsed what two candidates last week?

5) Super Bowl next week. Who’s playing?

6) In Des Moines what Republican presidential candidate hijacked a pre-school field trip to the botanical gardens to use the kids as props for an anti-abortion rally?

7) The owner of what major league baseball team is running ads against Bernie Sanders in Iowa prior to the caucuses?

8) Last Sunday in Muscatine Donald Trump added what religious group to the long list of groups he hates?

9) Feb. 1, 1960 in Greensboro, NC, 4 black students were refused service at a Woolworth lunch counter but stayed at the counter starting what form of protest?

10) Texas tried to prosecute Planned Parenthood, but last week the prosecution had some surprise results when the grand jury instead indicted who?

11) When federal officials arrested protesters near Burns, Oregon one protester was shot and killed. This man was best known for pictures of him covered by what?

12) Canada announced they will screen travelers to Central and South America from blood donations in an attempt to slow the spread of what virus?

13) President Obama banned what for juveniles in federal prisons Monday?

14) Prior to the Republican debates in Iowa Thursday fast food workers picketed the venue with what demand?

15) A $25 repair fee seemed to be the cause of a gunfight between the owner of what kind of store, his son and two customers in Mississippi last week?

16) Iowa’s caucuses got big media attention when what democratic candidate was propelled to an eventual gig in the White House with a good showing in Iowa?

17) Now here’s endorsements that might mean something. Donald Trump was endorsed by what two U of Iowa groups at a rally at the U of Iowa Fieldhouse Tuesday?

18) What evangelical ran second to Bob Dole in Iowa’s Republican caucus in 1988?

19) McDonald’s latest offering, mozzarella sticks, is facing a hard introduction due to what problem?

20) In 2008, Hillary Clinton finished in what position in the Iowa caucuses?

Now don’t forget we are all democrats, so play well together.

Answers:

1) Donald Trump. They lost the Donald

2) Lilly Ledbetter

3) Chicago 1968

4) Hillary Clinton (dem) and Marco Rubio (rep)

5) Denver and Carolina. The game will be played in San Francisco a city that now seems to located in Santa Clara

6) Carly Fiorina

7) Chicago Cubs

8) Sikhs – Trump had a Sikh man removed who was silently holding a sign that said “Stop Hate”

9) sit-ins

10) the pair that filmed the bogus”documentary” that led to the investigation for falsifying records.

11) a blue tarp

12) The zika virus that may be the cause of microcephalic babies

13) solitary confinement

14) $15/hr. minimum wage

15) a gun store. The shop owner and his son were killed and the cutovers, also father and son, were gravely injured. Not sure who the good guy with the gun was here.

16) Jimmy Carter

17) members of the U of Iowa football and wrestling teams

18) Pat Robertson. Just imagine him as president

19) the mozzarella cheese is often missing from the sticks

20) 3rd behind Obama and Edwards

Will The Legislature Let Medical Marijuana Happen This Year?

medical marijuana

Two years ago, Iowa seemingly became the latest in a string of states to allow marijuana to be used in limited medical situations. In Iowa, the situations were centered around epilepsy. All agreed this was very necessary and very good policy.

What was missed in allowing the use of medical marijuana in Iowa was that the possession of marijuana continued to be illegal. In order to legally use marijuana a person had to possess it first which is illegal.

Last year Republicans in the Iowa legislature refused to even discuss legalizing possession of marijuana by those who needed to use it medically.

Republicans need not wonder too long why Iowans think their legislators are a joke. They won’t fund schools, they keep women’s wages stuck in the 1950s and when they do try to take a step forward it appears they can move only leg.

This is not rocket science. In order to use the marijuana that will alleviate a terrible medical problem a person must first be able to possess the marijuana. This will be a huge step forward for those who need it. To the Republicans in the Iowa legislature, please do the right thing and make it possible for those who need this drug to be able to get it.

If I was cynical I might think that their opposition was based on getting “campaign contributions” from drug companies that are working across the country to halt the use of medical marijuana. But surely that couldn’t be it.

An Unspoken Message From Flint

Flint water sample (hat tip to wnem.com)

Flint water sample (hat tip to wnem.com)

Simply stated while more and more Americans concentrate in urban areas, right wing propaganda pushed by corporate media portrays America’s cities as crime ridden hell holes run by incompetent politicians and inhabited by slothful citizens who live off the dole, spawning generation after generation of citizens dependent on government. Right wing politicians at the state and federal level have used these perceptions to push laws that make it difficult at best for cities to even run let alone succeed. That is the crux of my rant.

While most news sources and opinion leaders are rightly hammering about the tragedy in Flint and how easily it could have been avoided, as far as I know no one has spoken of one of the underlying reasons that goes totally unspoken and ignored. Simply stated, America hates its cities. Americans through its politicians day after day and year after year creates hurdles and barriers to keep cities from operating in a manner that could optimize life for its citizens.

This should hardly be a surprise to anyone. Since the day a European first set foot in the new world, owning land and being beholden to no one has been what is now called the American Dream. Being a self-sustained family unit growing your own food, making your own clothes, living on a large acreage in a home built with your own hands. Land is at the basis of much of the American Dream. “A man’s home is his castle” and all that, but the bottom line was that every person was expected to strive for that little chunk of land that is their own.

Wars and famines in Europe in particular and elsewhere to a degree sent droves of refugees to our shores in the 19th century. Many of these folks were considered less desirable. Often for their own protection as well as the need for some familiar setting, these folk often congregated together. The congregating places became the cities. As most know living conditions in the cities were often that of hell holes. Thanks to social activists living conditions were gradually raised. Open sewers and dirty water eventually became indoor plumbing. Electricity was deployed. Cities slowly became more livable. Businesses and jobs moved into the cities where labor was cheap and plentiful.

The pastoral American Dream gave way to a reality of life in or near a city. The Great Migration of rural southern blacks to jobs in northern cities was the next phase. At this point race became a factor in how cities were treated. Following WW2 transportation and government policies around land and housing led to a movement to the suburbs by whites. Segregationist governmental policies led to white suburbs with good jobs surrounding an increasingly poor and jobless inner core city.

Mostly this was ignored by our media except for uprisings borne out of frustrations in the inner cities. While the pastoral American Dream remained as the ideal, reality was that most of America became increasingly tied to cities either in the city itself or as part of the burgeoning suburbs. As of the 2010 census slightly over 80% of Americans are listed as urban dwellers. Thus the vast majority of our population is tied to cities.

Over the decades as African-Americans became majorities in urban areas, they took the reins of government. During that same time period it seems that restrictions on what cities were allowed to do became much more restrictive, mandates on what a city must do for its citizens became broader without accompanying tax increases and the tax base deteriorated as industry and wages left town.

Post WW2 as inner cities began to deteriorate, the federal government made at least an attempt to help solve the problems through a program known as revenue sharing. Money was returned to cities based on population for them to use as they saw fit. Unfortunately this revenue stream was cut by the Reagan administration. Funds from this program were for the most part not replaced. Thus programs and improvements went by the wayside and cities really began to struggle to simply provide basic services amid lower revenues and another new wrinkle from the Reagan Administration. unfunded mandates. Prior to Reagan, new rules in areas such as environmental standards would come with some money from the federal government to implement programs. Under Reagan no money was attached to mandates which left cities scrambling to readjust monies to meet the mandates. The money often came from social programs.

As cities were lost revenue and faced new outlays a new anti-tax movement began to take hold in this country thanks in great part to corporate media constantly driving the propaganda that government doesn’t work. It is hard to beat propaganda pushed on nearly all TV and radio stations day in and day out. Cities were often used as examples of government failure where jobless people lived off government checks and sat around doing nothing all day while schools failed and local governments dithered. Pictures on TV cemented that view.

Cities unfairly became the right wing’s and the media’s example of out of control government spending that fostered dependency and sloth. Stories made it seem that incompetence and greed abounded. Forget that the financial binds that most cities were driven to were impossible to solve. TV and radio pushed the meme that cities were wastes of tax dollars and were incapable of solving their own problems. Add into the mix the toxic mortgage backed bonds that many cities used to park some of their funds in hopes of making some interest while waiting to use the money. City after city saw their money disappear while they were stuck with sales charges connected to buying the toxic bonds. This only added to the story of incompetent governments running cities.

All of this along with a racist lore that “others” were incapable of self-government. One more toxic item to add into the mix was the move to starve government at all levels of revenue along with the related push to privatize or profitize goods and services that were once the province of government. At the local level this meant hiring janitorial services for building maintenance rather than employing their own people and it meant hiring garbage pick up services. This also meant that parks went up for sale, buildings were sold for pennies on the dollar, water services were privatized. In Illinois and Indiana toll roads were privatized; in Chicago parking meters were sold to a private concern for a one time shot of money at pennies on the dollar.

With all this as a background, Michigan enacted a series of “emergency management” laws that stripped elected city officials in cities that the governor decided could not run themselves. As has been noted over and over the only cities so designated have been majority African American. And under an emergency management situation with no real check on their powers, the decision was made to change Flint’s water system.

More and more Americans live in a fantasy world where every man has a castle to protect with a cache of weapons. Bad people are consigned to a deservedly lousy existence in the teeming cities where sin, drugs, disease and desperation are rampant. But those who live there deserve what they get because they have somehow offended God and are being punished. Government doesn’t work and only fosters the wretched conditions in the cities. The only hope is dispense with government and empower strong and wise men to run the affairs of the cities without being encumbered by trivial rules.

Reality is that most of America lives in or near cities. Trends seem to show that renting will be the norm and home ownership will suffer a downward trend. What i happening in the inner cities will move to the suburbs as jobs flow overseas or become more and more concentrated as giant corporations continue to merge and consolidate.

America needs visionary leadership that will begin to address these problems now. These problems will not go away, nor can they be legislated or wished out of existence.

Iowa has these problems. There is nothing that makes Iowa cities immune from shrinking revenues and huge burdens. The state legislature continues to enact legislation that makes it harder and harder for cities to maintain libraries, parks, cemeteries, fire services, police and other services. Profitizers are already licking their chops and getting ready to buy up Iowa’s municipal water systems and sewer systems. Experience shows that once something is profitized it is hard to unprofitize. Beware Iowa and watch your legislature closely.