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How To Talk To Your Conservative Uncle At Thanksgiving Dinner

talking to conservaativesA note from Progress Iowa:

If you’re like me, you’re about to head home for the holidays, and you know what’s coming: that dreaded conversation with your conservative Uncle.

Every year he corners you because he doesn’t get the chance to talk to many progressives. And then it begins: Obamacare, Hillary, gay marriage, Benghazi, the list goes on and on.

Don’t worry — you’re not alone, and we’re here to help! This year try our 3-step recipe for survival in any conversation with your conservative Uncle (or Aunt, cousin, brother, parent, or in-laws!). Just preheat the conversation, stir in a few facts, then bake until perfection!

Step 1: Preheat the conversation. You can’t just start shouting facts at your conservative Uncle. They’re used to hearing angry, reactionary voices from Rush Limbaugh to Bill O’Reilly. Stay calm, and renew your personal connection. After all, you’re family! Most importantly, do not appear too thoughtful — conservatives may confuse this for weakness.

Step 2: Stir in the facts. Nothing gives conservatives more power than the myths they cling to. Stirring in the facts once you’ve warmed up the conversation is the most important step in the process. Make sure they are given the truth — it may take a while to counteract all the bad ingredients they’ve been given by the far right. Here are a few myths they may try to promote, along with facts you can stir in to the conversation:

MYTH: This year’s elections mean conservatives are winning over the country.
FACT: Recent polling shows that Americans believe we should lower the cost of student loans (80%), increase spending on infrastructure (75%), raise the minimum wage (65%), and address climate change (59%). [Source: NBC News/Wall St Journal]

MYTH: President Obama’s executive actions on immigration shredded the constitution.
FACT: Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush took similar actions on immigration; President Obama’s decision will keep families together and improve our economy by bringing in millions in tax revenue. [Source: Associated Press/ABC News]

MYTH: The situation in Ferguson had nothing to do with race, it was simply justice being served.
FACT: There is a ‘staggering disparity’ between the races in our justice system, and the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson is the latest tragic example of that systemic disparity. [Source: USA Today]

MYTH: Obamacare is failing and unpopular.
FACT: Obamacare [The Affordable Care Act] has covered millions of Americans who previously went without insurance, and more than 70% of Americans like their Obamacare plans. [Source: Gallup]

MYTH: Gay Marriage is ruining our families, and the Supreme Court has no place deciding the issue.
FACT: The majority of Americans support same-sex marriage, and agree with the Supreme Court’s recent decisions approving same-sex marriages. [Source: ABC News]

MYTH: Benghazi is one of the biggest scandals in American history.
FACT: A committee organized and planned by Republicans just debunked the conspiracy theories behind this myth. [Source: CNN]

MYTH: Climate change is a myth, or ‘the science isn’t settled’ on the issue.
FACT: The scientific community agrees by a 97% margin that climate change is real and man-made [Source: Washington Post]. Major corporations are now planning for climate change, why shouldn’t we work to prevent it? [Source: Boston Globe]

MYTH: Voter ID laws are needed to stop voter fraud and protect our democracy.
FACT: Voter fraud is almost nonexistent, and Voter ID laws are designed to suppress voter turnout among minorities, the elderly, and the young. [Source: Brennan Center for Justice]

Step 3: Bake until appropriately cooked. At this point, your conservative Uncle will be roasting in his own myths and half truths, so forgive him if he’s a bit thrown off. Take your time and be patient, let him fully cook, and patiently explain the error of his ways.

There’s your simple three step recipe. If all else fails, feel free to send us an email. We’ll be checking and prepared with answers to your questions and fact-check any myths we haven’t covered.

Good luck, and Happy Thanksgiving!
Matt Sinovic
Progress Iowa

P.S. Like any good recipe, this one should be passed on to other progressives in your family. Click here to share it on Facebook!

Howard Dean Calls On Democrats To Bring Back 50-State Strategy

Dean crowd 2004Highlights from the must-read interview with America’s #1 patriot and most loyal Democrat, Howard Dean.

by David Dayen

Howard Dean will forever be associated with one unguarded moment on a microphone in Iowa. But his real contribution to politics over the past decade was during his time at the Democratic National Committee from 2005 to 2008, when he implemented the 50-state strategy…And it bore fruit: Democrats gained by virtually every metric in deep-red states during this period, from presidential vote share to state legislatures.

After President Obama’s election in 2008, the 50-state strategy was effectively jettisoned. Large swaths of the country have been ceded to Republicans, with predictably terrible results. I talked to Gov. Dean about what the 50-state strategy accomplished and why he prefers empowering bottom-up organizing to making decisions exclusively out of Washington.

“My experience from having campaigned and from being governor is that there are Democrats everywhere, and if you want to nurture the party you have to nurture all of them. If you focus only on the states that are mostly Democratic, it’s demoralizing to the other states.

“The problem was that people in Washington are always moving people in and out of races and telling them who can and can’t run. And they don’t do as good a job, they’re not as in touch with what’s happening on the ground.

“Underlying all of it was this idea that the Internet was wonderful, but it’s not a substitute for personal contact.

“I believe in the South the Democrats will come back, but you can’t do it if you don’t pay attention.

“The point is that if you give up before you start, then you give up. The 50-state strategy was about giving everybody a base, and some competence level to work off, and then they were on their own. And it’s amazing what people will do if you give them a chance. Especially people who have been beaten down for years by the national party, who feel that nobody cares about them. The DCCC and DSCC wouldn’t put any money into these places for years, they didn’t care. And anybody who could self-fund, they became the candidate. That’s no way to run a party.”

(click here to read the entire article)


Schedule Of Public Meetings On Proposed Oil Pipeline In Iowa

Bakken Pipeline Proposed Route

Iowa Sierra Club

Proposed Pipeline through Iowa Carries Risks   [Bolds and italics BFIA’s]

Energy Transfer Partners (ETF), also doing business as Dakota Access, announced plans for a proposed oil pipeline that will run diagonally across Iowa, through 17 or 18 counties. It will carry light sweet crude oil from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota to Illinois where it will link with another pipeline that will transport the oil to terminals along the Gulf of Mexico. The company also announced that some of the crude oil will be loaded onto rail cars for shipment to the east coast.

The company has scheduled public informational meetings in December 2014 in each of the counties that the pipeline will cross, a requirement before asking the Iowa Utilities Board for permits. Members of the public will be able to attend and can speak during the meeting. ETF is expected to seek permits in 2015 through 2016. The company plans to have the pipeline operational in the fourth quarter of 2016.

Counties in Iowa comprising the proposed route include Lyon, Sioux, O’Brien, Cherokee, Buena Vista, Calhoun, Webster, Boone, Story, Polk, Jasper, Mahaska, Keokuk, Wapello, Jefferson, Van Buren and Lee. The northeast tip of Sac County is also in the study area.

Get Involved:

The Sierra Club Iowa Chapter urges you to join in opposition to the pipeline proposed by Energy Transfer Partners by attending and speaking out at one of the public meetings. The meetings will be held as follows:

December 1, 1:00, Inwood Community Center, Inwood

December 1, 1:00, Comfort Inn & Suites, Fort Madison

December 1, 6:00, River Valley Lodge, Farmington

December 1, 6:00, Terrace View Event Center, Sioux Center

December 2, 9:00am, Sheldon Community Services, Sheldon

December 2, 9:00am, Jefferson County Fairgrounds Activity Building, Fairfield

December 2, 3:00, Cherokee Community Center, Cherokee

December 2, 3:00, Bridgeview Center, Ottumwa

December 3, 9:00am, Buena Vista University Anderson Auditorium, Storm Lake

December 3, 9:00am, Memorial Hall, Sigourney

December 3, 3:00, Gateway Church of the Nazarene, Oskaloosa

December 4, 9:00am, DMACC Newton Conference Center, Newton

December 4, 3:00, Ankeny Parks and Recreation Lakeside Center, Ankeny

December 15, 1:00, Sac Community Center, Sac City

December 15, 1:00, Gates Memorial Auditorium, Nevada

December 15, 6:00, Boone County Fairgrounds Community Building, Boone

December 15, 6:00, Calhoun County Expo center, Rockwell City

December 16, 9:00am, Triton Room, Iowa Central Community College, Fort Dodge

Consider additional ways you can oppose the pipeline proposed by Energy Transfer Partners. The Chapter encourages you to:

  • Write letters to the editor in opposition to the pipeline
  • Once the public meetings have ended, submit written objections to the Iowa Utilities Board. For more information about how to submit your comments,  contact the Iowa Sierra Club.


The Iowa Sierra Club is concerned about the impacts a tragic accident or a leaky pipeline involving the highly flammable oil will have on Iowa’s communities, farms and environment, including

  • Polluting Iowa’s streams, rivers, lakes and aquifers
  • Tragic accidents affecting lives and personal property in the communities along the pipeline
  • Destroying Iowa’s farmland
  • Harming wildlife and sensitive natural areas in its path

Although the company plans to seek voluntary easements, it may ask the Iowa Utilities Board for permission to acquire the easement through eminent domain. The pipeline will require a permanent easement 50 feet wide, with no structures allowed on the easement. An even wider, temporary easement of 100 feet to 150 feet will be taken during construction.

Once the oil in this pipeline finally reaches the oil terminals in Nederland, Texas, there is absolutely no guarantee that the oil and refined products from the oil will remain in the United States for use in this country.

Pipelines leak.

In March 2013, homeowners in Mayflower, Arkansas, were overwhelmed when oil from a leaky pipeline flowed into their basements, over their lawns and onto their streets.

The Bakken oil is the same oil that was involved in train wrecks in North Dakota in December 2013 and in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, Canada, in July 2013.

A new pipeline will delay the U.S. transition to clean and renewable energy and more fuel-efficient vehicles. The United States needs to move away from fossil fuel extractions and to energy sources that have less impact on climate change.

sierra club iowa chapter

What If You Had An Election And Nobody Came To Cover it?

Death-of-newspapers-gravestone-3In Iowa, you get Joni Ernst.

This article points to Colorado as a microcosm of what is happening to newspapers nationally (including Iowa), and the impact of the loss of journalism on elections.   Colorado lost 50% of reporters covering elections in the last 5 years with the closing of Rocky Mountain News, the state’s second largest newspaper.  The Denver Post is the only major daily paper left in Colorado, and they have been experiencing layoffs.  In Iowa, The Des Moines Register, thanks to Gannett,  is a shell of its former self and is trending in a similar direction.  You can read the entire story here.

In These Times

What if you held an election and nobody showed up to cover it? Americans have now discovered the answer: You get an election with lots of paid ads, but with little journalism, context or objective facts.

Between 2003 and 2012, the newspaper workforce decreased by 30 percent [italics BFIA’s] nationally, according to the American Society of Newspaper Editors. That has included a major reduction in the number of newspaper reporters assigned to cover state and local politics.

Newspaper layoffs have ripple effects for the entire local news ecosystem, because, as the Congressional Research Service noted, television, radio and online outlets often “piggyback on reporting done by much larger newspaper staffs.”  Meanwhile, recent studies suggest the closure of newspapers can ultimately depress voter turnout in local elections.

“With so many newspapers and news outlets in general having fewer resources, there’s no pressure or incentive for candidates to engage with the press [ Joni Ernst] and there’s no echo chamber that makes candidates feel like they have to respond to anything,” Fox 31 reporter Eli Stokols said. He noted that Republican U.S. Senator-elect Cory Gardner, for example, rarely appeared in unscripted settings with journalists, preferring instead to simply blanket the airwaves with ads.  [Sound familiar?]

Andrew Romanoff, the Democratic candidate in Colorado’s closely contested 6th district, said that what little campaign coverage there is often ends up being about the candidates’ ads, because that requires minimal time, travel and expense to cover.  [How much time did we spend ruminating over the Joni Ernst hog castration ad?]

“It’s not quite a ‘Seinfeld’ episode,” he said. “It’s not a show about nothing, but the coverage has become a show about a show.”

The trouble, of course, is that the show should be about important issues like economic policy, climate change and national security (to name a few). And with a more vibrant local media doing more than just regurgitating poll numbers and reviewing ads, it can be. But that vibrancy requires two things: a genuine commitment and willingness to do the hard work of serious journalism and enough resources to succeed.

Both of those factors are in short supply. That means the most basic ingredients of a functioning democracy will probably remain in short supply, too.

(click here to read the entire article)

President Obama’s Immigration Speech


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)

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

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

Tea Party Candidate Joni Ernst Places #3 In Dark Money

joni with gun

Dark money” is spending by groups that hide the identities of some or all of their donors.

The analysis below details not only the record amounts of outside spending in 2014, but also the dominance of “dark money groups,” which are outside groups that don’t reveal all the sources of their funds. For the first time, the Senate changed hands because of the victories of several candidates who were overwhelmingly backed by these groups. Ten winning candidates together benefited from $127 million in dark money – more than 70 percent of the nonparty outside spending in their favor. The victors will take their seats likely feeling grateful to interests that are hidden from their constituents and the public.

dark money

Ernst Would Deny Minimum Wages To 1 Million Veterans

Classy Iowa GOP communications director admits to not caring about “solid facts.”

Progress Iowa:

1 million veterans across the country would benefit from raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. Joni Ernst wants to abolish the federal minimum wage, ignoring the needs of those veterans.

On Veterans Day, we decided to hold Ernst accountable for ignoring the needs of veterans. For that, we were called ‘classless’ by the Iowa Republican Party’s Director of Communications. The image we shared is below, along with the GOP response.

We will never back down from standing up for our veterans — especially those who, despite their service, make less than $10.10 an hour and deserve a raise.

And we will never back down from holding our elected officials accountable — especially those who ignore the needs of veterans and working families who just want a fair shot at the American dream.

You can help us fight back by spreading the word

Thanks for all you do,
Matt Sinovic
Progress Iowa