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Fear, Paranoia, Immigration And Christian Values

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Open Letter To Senator Joni Ernst

plannedparenthoodSenator Ernst:

Our country has many points of divisiveness. One of the most polarized is the issue of abortion. It is unlikely that opinion will ever move decisively in either direction. None of this “information” presented through the carefully edited videos is new nor surprising. The graphics display what any thinking person has already understood about the process of abortion. Visualizing the procedures of removing the organs that I will donate upon death is just as unappetizing, and also just as (un)relevant to the separate discussion of legalizing either action. Where do I go for civil, productive discourse on this subject when faced with distractions such as the interjection of irrelevant factoids? It may very well be that Planned Parenthood provides a very tiny percentage of women’s health care nationally, but for their clients, they are almost always the only option.

How do we find a starting place for dialogue when you disrespect their cancer screening work by saying that they don’t even do the mammograms in house, when you know that no other primary caregivers do those in house either? Planned Parenthood arranges the appointments and payments/insurance for mammograms to be done at specialized radiology departments off-site, just like my private doctor does for mine.

The “Greater Access Act” will not replace Planned Parenthood’s efforts to get birth control to those who want it, yet can’t afford to pay for it. This will mean more unplanned pregnancies. That will mean more abortions, legal or not. Your casual slander of people like my mother and aunt, people you haven’t met, along with their many colleagues at Planned Parenthood who have a much more Christ-like understanding of compassion, inhibits civil dialogue.

Reflect on an example we can take directly from Christ. Adultery is one of the grave sins listed in our Ten Commandments. When Jesus is facing a woman guilty of this, and a crowd of people ready to enact the legally encouraged punishment of stoning her to death for this, does He ask to throw the first stone? Does He preach that we should punish her for the crime? Say that we should make an example of her as a deterrent to others contemplating adultery? That we should “teach her a lesson?” He does not say that adultery is no longer a sin or crime. He does not seek to make more laws restricting behavior, or dispute her guilt. Where do you see yourself in this scene, Senator? Standing with the crowd, with a stone in your hand, staring with gaping mouth at Jesus, wondering why He isn’t jumping at this perfect chance to punish sin? Can we not find room in this example to let abortion be the private issue that it is, and not the government’s concern?

Given that women throughout time have sought abortions, and will continue to do so regardless of laws, let us examine the goals and efficacy of anti-abortion laws through that lens.

We know from past experience that a zero abortion rate will never be reached. Women will continue to get abortions, but through unregulated providers, with higher maternal death rates. Women will die specifically from anti-abortion laws. Knowing this, do we see the goal of these laws being to punish women who seek abortions? This seems fruitless and vengeful. Or do we find a place where we can turn together towards our common goal of reducing the number of abortions to as few as possible? Better knowledge of the biology of reproduction, and access to birth control lower abortion rates. We will never get all humans to agree on sexual morality boundaries, but we can promote the use of contraception and get closer to the goal of fewer abortions.

Soldier up, Senator. Come visit the “front lines” of a Planned Parenthood office with me. Hear their words, respectfully, in person. Ask the clients in person about their other options and the compassionate care they do receive.

Laura Twing

Iowa Lawmaker Gets A Laugh Not In A Good Way

iowa lawmaker reading book

Ross Paustian Republican Party State House District 92 Scott County 389 West Parkview Drive Walcott, IA 52773 563-284-6783

Friday, March 20, 2015:

Another testy week in Des Moines.

We all certainly could use a laugh to lighten the mood in the Capitol building, but, once again, an attempt at such got very lost in translation. A silly book title (with blank pages inside, I am told), an inappropriate caption for a picture of a representative holding said book, and social media converged to send an inaccurate picture of Iowans nationwide.

No laughs, and less motivation to dialogue and work together.

Today we have the third example in little over a week of how far we are from substantive debate. Republicans brought forth HR 8, encouraging a constitutional amendment to restrict the authority of the federal government. Yesterday, we had the discussion on changing the collective bargaining procedures for teachers. Last week we had discussion about prerequisites for performing abortions.

Hopefully, all three of these are dead, dead, dead in the Senate chamber. Republicans were likely aware of this fate, and although referring to the proposed changes as minor in scope, and knowing that there would be principled opposition to each, they engaged all of our legislators in a certain waste of time and money.

I would feel better about the floor time spent on these, if anyone had brought up sincere points that had a chance of educating and changing minds on these issues. But there were none. There was no attempt to present a thorough picture of all the tangents in each issue. No one started these floor “debates” with even the slightest intention of listening for new information, and that is where the disrespect of bringing these issues up at all, solidifies into rancor and distrust.

We get it, that you disapprove of abortion. But making it illegal, or harder to access, doesn’t end it. Doesn’t even lower the numbers substantially. Punitive laws that make no difference to reducing those numbers are not Christ-oriented, just vengeful.

We get it that you hate taxes. Change the debate to focusing on our current and future common needs, not finding arbitrary levels of “low taxes.”

We get it that you want to root out inefficiencies in education. Show us that this is not a backhanded attempt to dismantle public education, by being as vigorous about finding inefficiencies in other areas.

We get it that you don’t like “government.” But there will always be “governing” by some process, and a representative democratic republic is always a better choice than the oligarchy/theocracy that republicans are pushing for, no matter what size it is. Smaller does not equal efficient, period.

Republicans Play The Outrage Card Over Netanyahu Speech

obama netanyahu boehnerby Laura Twing

There are many words available to describe how the Iowa GOP felt about Congressman Loebsack not personally attending the Israeli Prime Minister’s speech to the U.S. congress joint session. But they chose to use the word “outrageous,” a word that is highly charged emotionally, a word that deliberately moves away from engaging in productive, adult discussions of the issue at hand.

Let me offer some alternative uses for the word “outrageous.”

I find it outrageous that people who say they are concerned about eminent domain and property rights, are completely silent about the families who lost land that had been in their families for generations, when we “gave” land “back” to someone who left it two thousand years ago.

I find it insulting that people who are intensely determined to stop abortions, turn a blind eye to the injustices done to innocent children by America’s ally. Displacement, torture, murder and callous disregard to their needs for medical attention – those actions are outrageous. As long as it isn’t via abortion, killing Palestinian children is not a problem for you?

I find it very sad that people who think they are the “serious adults” in discussions of any kind, see no irony in basing our policies, that affect lives, on religious allegories.

I find it intensely depressing that those who bring us “peace through strength” fail to see that our current volatility in the MidEast is directly tied to our destabilizing of Iraq.

I find it outrageous that people who supposedly value “honor and integrity” hide from discussion of all of the relevant history of this issue, and ignore injustices that interfere with their personally desired outcome.

I am deeply troubled that claiming a special relationship with the people of Israel based on our shared religious background, is resulting in violating one of the most common themes presented in our shared religious writings, that of championing justice. We cannot build peace on the back of injustice. I fully understand the emotional appeal at the end of WWII, of providing a homeland, a safe place for our Jewish neighbors, but the majority of Jews left that region two thousand years ago. The people now known as Palestinians, who were there before the Jews in the first place, never left. In my opinion, the Palestinians have the rightful claim to this property.

The corresponding problem to this, is that outside of the Holy Land, anti-semitism is on the upswing again. We must also fight injustice to people of Jewish heritage everywhere, outside of Israel. Here, in the U.S., those least tolerant of Jewish people as our neighbors tend to vote for the party that is spending $8 million dollars per day to perpetuate the above-mentioned injustices. Does anyone else find irony in this?

Supporting Jewish people and Jewish heritage? Absolutely! Tolerating the injustices done to Palestinians for a political homeland? Never. Not in my name.

Fiscal Responsibility Is A Moral Issue

budget signAt church this past Sunday,  I was reminded of our state’s balanced budget.  Part of the reason that it is “balanced” is due to cutting funding for food pantries.  Was that funding cut because need has gone down? Apparently not, since church members were again asked to increase their donations to the local food pantry, because more people need the help.  Yet we found room in this balanced budget to lower taxes for the business community. Why? We have thirty years of recent history showing that lowering taxes on business does not create jobs. The increase in need at food pantries is directly tied to a lack of decent jobs.  The money from that tax cut would have given us a much better return from investing in jobs and infrastructure.

Fiscal responsibility is not defined by a balanced budget alone.  Without the context of needs being met or adequate inclusion of responsible revenue options, “balanced budget” is little more than a feel good sound bite.  While we will always dispute what government should cover under the common welfare,  we should do a better job of reckoning future costs and how they are affected by what we choose to invest in today.  Better long-term financial outcomes might result from making pragmatic mathematical decisions, rather than putting too much emphasis on emotionally based principles. Do our communities not have a vested interest in educating people to be self-reliant?  Reality is that many parents fail at this, and the rest of us pay the price.

Why don’t we invest aggressively in educating kids to succeed, early, when we can make the most difference?  Why, for the sake of being able to remind people that they failed at personal responsibility, do we forsake the mathematically better option of investing in their potential at the earliest chance?

I understand that “small government” people want to believe that government can’t create jobs. But that is not accurate. One can believe in the principle that government shouldn’t create jobs, but we can’t have productive conversations about fixing our economy without acknowledging that government can and does create jobs.  Government can spend money to create jobs improving our infrastructure.  People working those jobs would pay taxes from those wages, and at the same time need less taxpayer assistance.  We are in critical need of the improvements.  Win. Win. Win.
Math, morals and recent history all support raising the minimum wage.  All of the states that have recently raised the minimum wage have seen better economic growth than those who haven’t.  Raising the wage has been proven not to cost jobs.

If we raise the minimum wage, people working those jobs will have more money to spend in their local economies. Less of them will need assistance.  Win. Win. Win.  Morally, if a business can’t complete its mission without certain tasks being done, the people doing those tasks need to be appropriately valued financially for that.

Math, morals and recent history also support keeping and widening the Affordable Care Act.  Math projections not influenced by the ” principle” of “make it on your own, buddy” indicated that the ACA would slow the rise of healthcare costs, and this is indeed what is happening.

Discussing “tax and spend” issues need to include long term fiscal outcomes also. Businesses do better when we have good infrastructure. Why aren’t they willing to support proper maintenance of it? How can I take seriously any arguments against “entitlement” spending when tax breaks for businesses is off the table?  Why are successful corporations “entitled” to my tax dollars? Why is a tax for the military and the long term costs for veterans not part of the conversation?  We spare no expense for wars and equipment, with no return on that investment. Why won’t we spend money on things that will bring a positive return?

Taxes should be as low as possible.  They should be as fair as possible.  Low is defined how?  Fairness across the board, and meeting needs should be our first concerns.  Fairness depends upon including everyone, especially financially successful businesses.  The more exceptions that are allowed makes the system less fair for all of us.

Our national budget deficit is only half of what it was when Obama took over.   We can reduce this further in the long run, by investing wisely in education, infrastructure, health care and clean energy industries.

Laura Twing

Americans Need To Work Together To Solve Our Nation’s Problems

together we will standLooking for a way forward, a new vision for our country calls us to step outside of our comfort zones.  How can we work together to solve our county’s problems? One of the first steps will be to properly identify problems, and their causes. Another is to let go of ideas that may have worked in our past, but aren’t working now – being willing to take pieces from our favorite “isms” and join them with others to form paths forward.

Could our national “character” use a little tweaking towards more gentleness and cooperation, and less fear and competitiveness?

Separating the ideals of how we would like government to work, from the pragmatics of what we actually have available to work with, and what is actually possible.

Can we solve the debt issue? If we (temporarily!) value the principle of low taxes less than the solving of our debt, yes we can! Through restructuring our tax systems (temporarily!) by raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy, and changing loopholes, we can erase our enormous debt.

While doing that, we also need to discuss the deficit in our budget using sound mathematics and accounting principles rather than ideological principles. We need to be willing to reassess priorities. We need to debate respectfully how our “scope of government” and “the general welfare” might be different in this century, from the time period when our nation began.

We spend a tremendous amount of money on public assistance of various kinds. Romney’s figure of 47% will do for an example. Mathematically, is this percentage of “non-producers” in our economy sustainable? Of course not! In a perfect world, that percentage would be zero, but that is not a realistic goal. This is where accurately identifying the underlying causes of this problem comes in if we want to lower that percentage permanently.

If we are assisting people who can’t make ends meet because they are not educated enough for “good jobs,” wouldn’t investing more up front for their education be both more economically sensible and offering them more dignity as humans? If we are assisting people who can’t keep a job due to health issues, isn’t investing in supportive, early intervention health care that keeps them more productive both more logical and dignified?

The only thing keeping us from investing properly in our citizens and our future, is our fixation on the principle of “making it on our own.”  This principle needs the perspective of properly defining average versus exceptional. Our American “rags to riches” dream celebrates the success of exceptional people. We are not all exceptional people. By definition, very few of us are exceptional. Most of us are average, some of us are below average, no matter what category we discuss.

Can we solve our off-kilter political system? To perfection, no. Since so many of us are too frustrated to participate in elections, should we come up with a different form of governing? Should we limit who “qualifies” to vote, or should we pay more than lip service to educating voters?

Governing, or managing happens. In business contexts, we value the concept of managing. We seem to view managing/governing in our civil lives as evil. Either we manage our society with accountable elected officials, or we let others manage it, i.e., religious groups or business interests who are not accountable to us.

Our management needs are different now than when we began and “small government” is another principle that distracts us from improving how government does its job.

Let us admit that we cannot reach any of our desired Utopias, and work on things we can fix, together.

Laura Twing



Bobby Kaufmann Disappoints Constituent

iowa capitolA disappointing week.  Too many reminders of why I didn’t vote for Bobby Kaufmann last time and won’t next time.

Despite a good bill regarding increases in penalties for animal abuse, and support for increasing the fuel tax in order to maintain our roads, he is still headed the wrong direction on the big items.

Nothing affects our state’s future course more than education.  Education needs to be our first order of business, and be the very first priority on the budget.  The Iowa House failed to invest in Iowa’s future this week.

This past week, Bobby chose to help “enable” the Iowa Taliban agenda.  In a bill that solves absolutely no problems, adds no safety to a private medical procedure, but restricts access to abortion for those most in need and disregards the fundamental rights of half of his district, he has chosen to govern by ideology. Obstructing the freedom to make personal choices about child-bearing gives conservatives a warm fuzzy feeling, without solving any actual problems.  Pretending that fetuses have a right to finish developing into a full term live birth strips rights away from women already fully involved in their lives.

Conservatives are wrong to view abortion as the apex of immorality.  In a time when contraception is safe and reliable,  producing children that you are unprepared to raise well is a far greater sin.

Parents have a moral obligation to prepare properly for child rearing. Responsible child rearing involves knowing what they will need to be taught and provided with to grow into healthy, productive adults.  Children cost money, and “God will provide” is not a financial plan. Sometimes the hard but correct choice is to terminate a pregnancy where the necessary elements for child rearing are not in place yet.

Placing requirements on women such as proving rape or proving health issues is a very slippery slope, and beyond demeaning.

Why does the party of personal freedom and individual rights exempt women from that concept?

Laura Twing lives in Cedar county, with her husband and various animal companions.

How My Mom Made A Difference

candleThe church choir sang at her funeral.

She was in the church choir nearly all of her life, starting at age six in the children’s choir, and all of her adult life, until dementia stole her ability to concentrate.

She brought us to every choir practice, Lenten dinner, fall soup suppers.  Mom became a church elder as soon as women were allowed to do so.  She helped with nursery duty, the food pantry, Sunday school and fixing dinners for various events.  She loved the community that had nurtured her parents and grandparents and great-grandparents.

She also served Jesus and her community through her career as a nurse.  She worked many years as a nurse practitioner at the local Planned Parenthood office.

She did cancer screenings, gave women accurate  science-based information regarding sexual activity and family planning, and listened! to women who had no other place to discuss their fears and dreams for the future.  As she listened to women lacking in financial security, or personal safety in relationships, or damaged senses of self-confidence, she kept in mind the overall message of the Gospel, that Jesus’s gift of grace frees us from the unachievable goal of gaining heaven through our own works.  Imperfect people caught up in imperfect lives still receive love and forgiveness from Jesus.  She loved being able to offer this grace to women seeking control of the reproductive aspects of their lives.

The last part of her nursing career was spent working for a doctor who did in-vitro fertilization.  She made babies.  She loved this approach to reproductive freedom as well.  She loved sharing the joy of bringing a healthy baby into the lives of these families who wanted with all their hearts to be parents. Every time I came home from college, I would find pictures of my new “sisters or brothers” on our mantel.   To this day, my parents receive Christmas cards from this “side” of the family, and several of these people attended her funeral.

From the joy of helping parents through infertility problems, to being a calming, non-judgmental source of information to women overwhelmed by circumstances or bad choices, my mother touched many lives outside of her immediate family.

Rest in peace, Mom, job well done!

Laura Twing lives in Cedar county, with her husband and various animal companions.

Why Population Growth Should Be Part Of Our National Conversation

population growth chartOur current tax system is unsustainable. Legalized tax evasion allows corporations to be “persons” in the political influence arena, yet excuses them from paying “income” taxes along with the rest of us. Estimates of tax monies lost this way range up to 140 billion dollars annually.

The “Bush” tax cuts have not resulted in jobs or economic growth for anyone except the wealthiest 1% in this country. Real wages and buying power are significantly lower than ten years ago.  Trickle down doesn’t.Is there a “correct” percentage to tax formulas? Top tax rates one hundred years ago were near 90%. Currently they are under 40%.

We need to address the damage to our fiscal security done by the financial crisis of 2008.  Risky business practices by financial institutions caused the crisis. Those entities were bailed out, costing taxpayers both the damage to the economy plus the money paid to bail said companies out. It is unjust to allow them not to pay the taxpayers back.

We need resolution on paying for our most recent wars.  A war tax needs to be implemented before we ask the the poor and voiceless to bear this cost.  Many companies and government contractors made tremendous profits off of these wars. They need to pay their share.

We need to remove corporate welfare and subsidies and tax protections for industries that don’t practice good community and conservation values.  They cost us real money in the present, and more in the future with their destructive practices.

We need to address our deficit in a comprehensive manner.  Ending all social assistance programs alone will not close the gap between income and payments.  We need to address the cultural reasons why so many of us are needing assistance. This will mean hard conversations involving childbearing, child rearing and population growth.  Ignoring these issues leaves other problems festering.

We need to put aside utopian ideals of low/no taxes and limited government.  We live in both local and global communities. We depend on infrastructure. We all need to pay in, to keep costs as low and fair as possible.

The fiscal year 2010 deficit was 1,294 billion dollars.  The deficit for fiscal year 2014 is projected to be 744 billion.  This is down by nearly half!

We still have a long way to go, and we need to fix more than welfare to get there.  There is no fiscal or moral justification for cutting off social assistance before revamping tax rates and corporate welfare.

Laura Twing lives in Cedar county, with her husband and various animal companions.


Freedom And Health Care Go Hand In Hand

freedomWhy does the song lyric “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose”  keep running through my head these days?

Government is not “the problem.”  Government is the tool we have for managing our society.

Taxes are not evil, but an unjust system of who pays them is.

We have a very complex society these days compared to the years between the Pilgrims and the Founding Fathers.  The definition of “the common welfare” needs to include a different depth and perspective than it did before.

Our health care system needs to be separated from the insurance business.

People don’t die from a lack of insurance, they die from lack of medical care.

Freedom is expanded when we choose jobs because of  interests, abilities and personal  family needs, rather than on what healthcare benefits are offered.

Freedom and prosperity win when people don’t face bankruptcy over pre-existing conditions, or reaching insurance company pay-out limits.  Freedom is having a doctor advise you on health issues, rather than an insurance company employee.

I trust my insurance agent and company to advise and insure me in many areas of my life, but they add nothing to the healthcare issue beyond increased cost.

Laura Twing lives in Cedar county, with her husband and various animal companions.