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Archive for November 6, 2011

Does Fracking Cause Earthquakes?

Catholics back labor
It was very good to see that the Iowa Catholic Conference issued a pro-labor statement this week. Growing up Catholic, one thing I remember quite well is that the aims of the Catholic Church often lined up well with those of the poor and working people. Recent years have seen some turning away from those standards. So it is good to see the Catholic Church lining up once again with their old stands.

No doubt the abortion issue became a huge, almost single issue for the church for decades. Sadly, this has been hypocritically used to get Catholics and other working and poor people to vote against the party that would normally represent their views and for the party that works for the rich and corporations. I hope workers of all stripe can see through the hypocrisy and come back to voting for the interests of the working class.

Happy Halloween from Branstad
October 31st marked the closing of 5 of the larger state employment offices to be closed. Muscatine, Clinton, Newton, Ames and Storm Lake were closed on Halloween. Yet another fine example of Republican arrogance and condescension toward those who need help. We can only hope that when Branstad and his cronies are looking for work in 3 years they will find the system they created totally inadequate to help them.

With God We Delay
One year ago Republicans were elected on promises of jobs, jobs, jobs. And so in that vein on Tuesday they had a major vote on —– reaffirming that “In God we trust” is the national motto. Seriously? Has anyone ever seen a more out of touch party in the history of the US? Perhaps the Know-Nothings of the 1840s and 1850s. Sadly, the current Republican Party continues to emulate the Know-Nothings and appears to want to do so right into oblivion. I wish them luck in that endeavor and the sooner the better.

Grover Who?
I had to guffaw this week when John Boehner acted as though he had no idea who Grover Norquist was. Hey, Boehner, he is your boss – the one to whom you pledged feality to over the Constitution.

Earthquakes? What earthquakes?
You know those incredibly false ads on TV about how natural gas wells don’t pollute the ground water or cause any other problems? Well (pun intended), it seems that Cuadrilla Resources, a fracking company, has admitted that fracking has caused earthquakes in the UK.  On the heels of this admission, the Oklahoma Geologic Survey reports that 50 seismologic events occurred due to fracking.  If they can’t suffocate us, they will blow up the earth under us.

And as they cause more and more earthquakes remember some of them will be very close to Nuclear Power Plants. Remember the earthquake near Washington, DC this summer that knocked out the North Anna Nuclear power plant? Some speculate that fracking caused this unusual earthquake. North Anna is still offline. Could have been a real disaster.

Jobs still going up.
I am always amazed when the monthly jobs report comes out and the economy adds jobs. I have this picture in my mind of Barack Obama pushing a huge boulder up a hill while the whole Republican Party and all the fat cats try like hell to push it back at him. Can you just imagine what would happen if WE All started pushing in the same direction. But Republicans have made it plain and simple that ruining this president is their only goal, no matter what happens.  Never has America seen such out and out belligerence by one party. Enough is enough.

The insults just keep on coming.
During this Republican primary cycle we have seen Republican voters cheer wildly for a person dying in America because they do not have health insurance, cheering wildly for the death penalty, and booing a soldier loudly because he was gay. Now we can add the reaction to the charges against Herman Cain. Since the story began, it has caused a dramatic increase in Cain’s fundraising and has solidified his popularity. One can almost imagine if these transgressions were announced in an auditorium full of the rabid base that Herman would get standing ovation.  Republican policies and attitudes toward women make me wonder if there are any mothers, sisters, daughters or wives in the Republican Party.

Lesson from the 1980 Iowa Caucuses

Iowa Caucus Goer

The letter began, “tonight is an exciting evening for Iowa Democrats. As the first state to begin the presidential delegate selection process, the eyes of the nation are truly on Iowa.” It was from Ed Campbell, chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party. The date was January 21, 1980, the night of the quadrennial Iowa caucuses.

The second paragraph went on, “The impact and implications of your decision will be felt all over America during the weeks and months ahead. As this letter is read, the national press are (sic) gathered in Des Moines by the hundreds to await the results of your decision.” It was true then, and is true now. Getting the attention of the national media is an important part of being first in the nation.

This year, however, President Obama is without a serious challenger and the lackluster field of Republican hopefuls makes news, but is uninspiring, even to many of their party’s faithful. Iowa is manifesting itself in the national spotlight as a place of evangelical religious groups, many of them accepting a literal interpretation of the Bible, with home schooling to prevent children from being exposed to a broader society, and some believing the end of days and the rapture is approaching.

Iowa will make its brief and tawdry imprint on this year’s edition of the national news. Then we will go back to being Iowans, where a majority of our more than three million residents are not fans of Rick Santorum, Michelle Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, Herman Cain or the rest of the Republican field, but are much more reasonable than this tarnished moment makes us appear.

Set aside this year’s Republicans and there are some lessons to be learned from the 1980 Iowa caucuses. President Jimmy Carter had been in office for exactly three years and his polling showed him to be unpopular. Unlike President Obama, who has also had low polling numbers, Carter had two serious challengers, one of whom was Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy.

Kennedy was sincere and energetic in his challenge of Carter, saying in a letter to caucus goers, “I believe the time has come to restore effective leadership in the White House. We can no longer afford thirteen percent inflation eroding the wages of workers, the income of farmers and the pensions of the elderly. A so-called spiritual malaise is no excuse for an unfair and unworkable energy policy and the highest interest rates since the Civil War. I know we can do better.”

Harsh words for a sitting president from a serious contender in the same party. We know the history. Carter won the nomination, Kennedy gave a concession speech for the ages and America got President Ronald Reagan. Thank heavens it is not like that as we go into 2012.

What no one seems to talk about any longer is something else Campbell wrote in his letter:

“In addition to the other elections this evening, I urge you to carefully decide who will represent your precinct on the County Central Committee. The two precinct committee leaders you elect will lead the Democratic Party for the next two years. They will be asked to recruit volunteers, raise money and organize Election Day activities. It’s a tough and often times a thankless job; however it is quite simply the most important position in the Democratic Party. We need and want to have committed and knowledgeable people to lead our party in each of the state’s 2,531 precincts. Without the best and most committed people in these positions, we are a party in an empty shell.”

There’s the lesson from 1980. This cycle the Iowa Democratic Party continues an ill-advised practice of managing from the top down. Flush with campaign contributions and a permanent, national political infrastructure, organizing is done by paid campaign help and permanent staff. We are able to surge for single events like the special election in Senate District 18, but continue to be the shell Campbell hoped against.

Grassroots organizing is in remission among Democrats. We focus more on what we hear on television, radio and on the internet, instead of what our neighbors want and need. Until Iowa Democrats, not party leadership, re-engage at the grassroots level, whatever hold we have on government will be based on the fact that the other party is worse and not on who we are as Democrats. That is no way to run a campaign or to make progress in the important work of governance.

The failure of this approach was evident during the 2010 midterms. The 1980 Iowa Democratic caucuses remind us of the importance of County Central Committees and having good people on them. My question for the reader is do you know who your central committee members are and do you really care? This barometer of grassroots politics is better than any poll and similar to what we experienced on that winter night in 1980s Iowa when a group of us stood for Ted Kennedy.

~ Paul Deaton is a frequent contributor to Blog for Iowa who lives in rural Iowa.

Sunday Funday – The War To End All Wars.

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 2011 we remember once again the armistice that was meant to be the end to the War that would end all Wars or The Great War. Sadly that didn’t take, so the conflict was renamed World War I when a larger and more destructive war started 21 years later.

World War I started nearly a century ago. Most of the battles and lessons of the War have been forgotten. But just to jog your memory, let’s see what we do remember. Some multiple choice and some straight up questions.

1) Most people know that the immediate cause of WWI was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Of what country or empire was Franz Ferdinand an archduke of?
a) Germany
b) Austria
c) Serbia
d) Russia

2) Longer term conflicts which led to the start of WWI included destabilization in this region of Europe which became known as “the powder keg of Europe”
a) the Baltics
b) the German Empire
c) The Balkans
d) Alsace-Lorraine

3) WWI saw the introduction of various new weapons and tactics. One of the most feared new weapons caused slow and painful death. What was it?
a) poison gas
b) biological weapons
c) laughing gas
d) trained rats

4) Which Allied power fell into an internal revolution during WWI which effectively removed it from involvement in the war?

5) The main method of combat during WWI was
a) guerilla warfare
b) sniper fire
c) line battles
d) trench warfare.

6) WWI was also the first use of what then recent invention during war?
a) movie cameras
b) light bulbs
c) airplanes
d) atomic weapons

7) In 1916 President Wilson ran for president with the slogan:
a) “We must join the battle for democracy”
b) “Our fate is joined with Europe’s”
c) “Peace in our Times”
d) “He kept us out of war”

8) Following WWI, France set out on a defense strategy and structure that they believed would inhibit any future German agression. This project was known as the __________________.

9) Despite the crippling effect of WWI reparations, Germany did eventually repay them. When was the last payment made?
a) 1933
b) 1992
c) 1977
d) 2010

10) The wearing of poppies on Armistice Day (Nov. 11) was inspired by:
a) The poem ‘In Flanders Fields’
b) A speech by Woodrow Wilson asking that “poppies be worn where once there were wounds.”
c) The painting “Poppies Cover Trench Rows”
d) The last, little known verse of the song “Over There.”

Hard to believe that WWI started nearly a century ago. If there has been one major change, cameras and television have revealed that war is not the romantic glory once thought, but humans in pain often because of their leaders’ lack of ability to seek peace. Here is hoping we leave Afghanistan and bring our troops home from around the world. WWI has been over for nearly 70 years.

BTW – WWI also saw the introduction of tanks and armored vehicles,  and the first use of barbed wire and the machine gun in war.

Answers? Alright – don’t get belligerent! (from the Latin – to wage war)
1) b) Franz Ferdinand was the archduke of Austria
2) c) the Balkans – hence the word Balkanization to describe a greatly fractured, unstable region or group.
3) a) poison gas – such as chlorine, mustard gas and phosgene
4) The Russian Revolution started in 1917. The Romanov dynasty was eventually replaced by the communists
5) d) Trench Warfare which resulted in huge losses on both sides.
6) c) airplanes – who can forget the Red Baron
7) d) “he kept us out of war” at least for a time
8) The Maginot Line. Praised when it was constructed, Hitler merely went around the flank and over it in planes. Therefore it was essentially useless.
9) d) About a year ago, Angela Merkl’s government made the final payment on the WWI reparations, thus officially ending the war.
10) a) The poem “In Flanders Fields.” All the rest I made up.