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What Does It Mean To Be A Progressive?

BermanPaul Deaton wrote this book review for The Prairie Progressive.  Published here with permission.

Who is a progressive? Who is a “real” progressive? Who will continue a progressive legacy after the 2016 election?

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders debated what it means to be a progressive at the beginning of the 2016 Democratic presidential nominating process, with both claiming progressive bona fides.

Here’s what I say. You are not a progressive unless you have read Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America by Fairfield, Iowa’s own Ari Berman.

In this extensively researched, easy to read text, Berman reminds many of us of the reason we became politically active: as a way of engaging in progress toward racial and social justice centered around the Voting Rights Act (VRA) signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on Aug. 6, 1965.

There has been a concerted, well-planned effort to suppress provisions of the VRA. The June 25, 2013 decision by the Supreme Court of the United States to overturn Section 4, which required certain states to get preclearance of changes to voting laws from the Department of Justice, was only the most obvious, recent incident. Berman’s account of the Nixon and Reagan administrations provides insight that de-fanging the law was part of Republican intent from the beginning. My reaction was incredulity at everything that was happening before my eyes without me understanding it.

Berman interviewed Rep. John Lewis extensively for the book (along with many others) and it shows. Lewis wrote in the Washington Post, “(Give Us The Ballot) should become a primer for every American, but especially for congressional lawmakers and staffers, because it so capably describes the intricate interplay between grass-roots activism and the halls of Congress . . . Congress must fix the Voting Rights Act, and Berman’s book explains why, without passion or favoritism. It is the first history of the contemporary voting rights movement in the United States. It is long overdue, but Berman’s extensive reporting makes it well worth the wait.”

It’s hard to disagree.

Be a progressive. Read Give Us the Ballot this summer.

–Paul Deaton is Solon, Iowa’s own.


While we’re on the topic of progressives and what to read, check out these selections from The Prairie Progressive’s Summer Reading List.

Extreme Prey
by John Sanford

Lucas Davenport is on the campaign trail during the caucus season, not as a candidate but as a private detective monitoring some unusual rumors and suspicious activities in the precincts of Iowa. Politics as usual, or something more sinister?

Alive: New and Selected Poems
by Elizabeth Willis
One of Iowa City’s finest poets writes deceptively simple, polished meditations that earned her selection as a Pulitzer Prize finalist for 2016. “The poet is a trespasser.”

The Story of My Teeth
by Valeria Luiselli
Possibly the greatest dental novel ever, in the surreal but earthy tradition of Cervantes and Marquez. Prairie Dog predicts that Luiselli, born in Mexico and raised in South Africa, will someday win a Nobel.

Quixote by Ilan Stavans
Speaking of Cervantes, his epic Don Quixote is now 400 years old, and nearly that many years ahead of its time. Stavans crafts an air-tight case for the saga of Quixote and Sancho Panza as the best, not just the first, novel of all time.

Shakespeare’s Money: How Much Did He Make and What Did This Mean?
By Robert Bearman
Another 400-year anniversary rolls around (watch for an exhibit of the First Folio at the University of Iowa this fall). Shakespeare, according to Bearman, was just another hack trying to support his family, although he did turn a nice phrase occasionally.

Nothing Ever Dies
by Vietnam Thanh Nguyen
Nguyen examines the Forever War through the prism of popular movies, literature, and art, while reflecting on memory and its distortions. How do we remember wars? How should we remember them?

We Gotta Get Out of This Place: The Soundtrack of the Vietnam War
by Doug Bradley and Craig Werner
Hendrix, Aretha, Dylan, Creedence, Merle Haggard – all were as popular on the Vietnam battlefront as on the American home front. Soldiers sometimes gleaned different meanings from the same songs, but the music helped them tolerate combat, and often brought together urban and rural, black and white, and even pro-and anti-war troops.

West of the Revolution: An Uncommon History of 1776
by Claudio Sant
Sure, a lot was happening on the east coast, but what about the rest of the continent? Russia and Spain were running wild along the coast of California, Lakota Sioux roamed the Black Hills, France and England were attempting to divide and rule the land on either side of the Mississippi, and beavers were performing ecological engineering miracles throughout North America. Sant’s fascinating depiction of a world in spectacular upheaval brings together market forces, climate change, and struggles for freedom – a world much like today’s.

Girl Waits with Gun
by Amy Stewart
Three sisters become armed Sheriff’s deputies in rural New Jersey a century ago. No profanity, no violence, barely any crime – the ideal historical novel for sensitive mystery lovers.

One Kick
by Chelsea Cain
Girl waits with gun, chainsaw, and bondage cuffs. Iowa native Cain delivers another not-for-the-fainthearted thriller.

The Fire Next Time
by James Baldwin
52 years later, the writing is as powerful as ever, and the insights into America’s racial divide are, unfortunately, as timely as ever. “Whatever white people do not know about Negroes reveals, precisely and inexorably, what they do not know about themselves.”

The Soul of an Octopus
by Sy Montgomery
These cuddly creatures always make the lists of Smartest Animals, but few writers have love affairs with them. This one does, although she insists it’s platonic. Readers will no longer find calamari appealing on the menu.

This Too Shall Pass
by Milena Busquets
A story of sex and death on the Spanish coast. Not too deep, not too light – the perfect beach book for a steamy Iowa summer.

Amusing Ourselves to Death
by Neil Postman
Thirty years ago, as public discourse in America increasingly began to resemble show business, Postman predicted the rise of politicians who would entertain and control the masses through mastery of new communication technologies. He credits earlier thinkers Marshall McLuhan, for perceiving that mediums determine messages, and Aldous Huxley, who predicted that people would “adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.”  Substitute Twitter for television, and you’ll find this book uncannily prescient and useful in understanding the undermining of our democracy.

–Prairie Dog, with thanks to Paul “Prairie Mouse” Ingram

Prairie Dog

Prairie Dog

The Prairie Progressive is Iowa’s oldest progressive newsletter, available only in hard copy for $12/yr.!!  Send check to PP, Box 1945, Iowa City 52244.



DFA Endorses Jim Mowrer In Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District


With an unprecedented number of millionaires and a record low number of veterans in Congress right now, it’s more important than ever that we elect progressive leaders in the U.S. House — especially those with a record of service to Iowa and to their country. Leaders like Jim Mowrer.

DFA endorsed Jim Mowrer early on in his first race in 2014 when he took on a tough fight against Steve King. I was proud to see him meet with Iowa’s working families and talk about what they want to see their elected leaders fight for in Washington, D.C.

With this new cycle and a new map, DFA is proud to endorse Jim Mowrer for Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District because he’s running precisely the kind of grassroots, people-powered campaign that will win in November.

Jim Mowrer wants to overturn Citizens United, protect Social Security, and take action against climate change. If he defeats a vulnerable Republican this fall, Democrats will be even closer to a progressive majority in the House.

Jim Mowrer is the kind of progressive champion we need in Congress — and he needs us to stand with him now. Please join with DFA and chip in $3 or more to help Jim win.

Jim Mowrer is running a campaign prioritizing Iowa’s working families and middle class. He will continue the fight to raise the minimum wage, enact paid family and medical leave, and confront a corrupt campaign finance system long after election day.

Mowrer grew up on a farm, losing his father in an accident at a young age. Social Security helped keep his family going in the aftermath of tragedy.

After high school, Jim decided to give back to his country by serving in the military. Jim is an Iraq War veteran and has seen first hand how the Republican Congress has hurt military families, veterans, and working families in Iowa.

Jim’s personal background and his commitment to fighting for Main Street against Wall Street make him the right candidate for Iowa. We need him to fight alongside progressive leaders in Congress. Will you help him win?

Chip in $3 or more to send Jim Mowrer to Congress — and help elect a more progressive House of Representatives.

Thank you for standing with Jim Mowrer and DFA today.

– Jim

Jim Dean, Chair
Democracy for America

Weaver Calls Out King For His “Useless” Amendment

kim weaver

Iowa —

Steve King is at it again – putting his ego above his constituents. Yesterday he introduced another useless amendment. Useless, ridiculous, offensive. Who was his target this time? Harriet Tubman.

In fact, the Quad City Times had this to say: “Rep. King has “relied on white anger and a lust for social exclusion to consolidate his base.”

That’s right. While Iowans are concerned about rising tuition costs and oppressive student debt, while we worry about stagnant wages and saving for retirement, Steve King is focused on what’s really important: Keeping Harriet Tubman off the $20 bill.

New York Times:

WASHINGTON — Representative Steve King, Republican of Iowa, moved on Tuesday to block the Treasury Department’s sweeping plan to represent women and civil rights leaders on American currency, including the placement of Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill.

Mr. King filed an amendment to an annual appropriations bill that would prevent any money from being spent to redesign American currency. It is unclear whether it will ultimately get a vote when the full spending bill, which covers financial services and general government appropriations, comes before the House this week.

What will this amendment do for residents of Iowa’s 4th District? Nothing. How will it make the lives of his constituents better? It won’t. And what chance does this meaningless and mean-spirited gesture have of actually passing? Just like most measures introduced by Steve King, none.

Tell Steve King you want a representative in Congress who will focus on the solutions WE deserve instead of useless, ego-driven, do-nothing, go-nowhere legislation. Click here to send a Tubman to our campaign and help us retire Steve King. (Or any amount. But we’re hearing that today a $20 feels especially good in a “Take that!” kind of way.)

One good thing has come out of all this, though. Twitter, never one to suffer fools lightly, started a mini-movement last night.

FollowRetweetSO: Having @SteveKingIA in office is the same as having Donald Trump in office. Send a Tubman to King’s opponent. @KimWeaverIA #NeverTrump

@nerdytraveler: Send @KimWeaverIA a Jackson (soon to be Tubman)! Help her beat @SteveKingIA.

Help us dethrone King in 2016!

If you would like to make a donation to our campaign you may contribute here.

Don’t forget to ‘Like’ and follow Kim Weaver for Congress on Facebook and Twitter!

Bakken Pipeline Fight Still Alive

Bakken Pipeline Proposed RouteIowa Citizens for Community Improvement

Yesterday, we joined the Bakken Pipeline Resistance Coalition for a powerful rally that lifted up how eminent domain has been abused to take Iowa land for the profit of Dakota Access.

This was just one day after the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) signed off on the Bakken Pipeline boring under a sacred Meskwaki burial site. The site is in the Sioux Watershed Management Area, an eco system that is highly sensitive to any disruption.

Landowners, the Meskwaki tribe of Iowa, and citizen activists from around the state have banded together to say: The fight’s not over! You can watch coverage from yesterday’s rally here.

Here is what’s coming up in the #NoBakken fight:

We’re going to be in Pilot Mound on Saturday, June 25 with our floating protest to raise awareness of the risk to Iowa’s waterways. Click here for more details!

There are still plenty of ways this toxic proposal can be shut down: the Army Corps of Engineers has not yet issued their permit for the pipeline, there is a good chance that the Environmental Protection Agency will intervene on the grounds of environmental justice, and Boone County is getting serious about passing a community rights ordinance that could prohibit the abuse of eminent domain.

We will keep you posted in the fight for a clean energy Iowa,

Community Organizer
Iowa CCI

P.S. Chip in $5, $10, or $25 to keep this fight going strong!

We’re currently at 4,804 Facebook followers. Help us get to 5,000 fans!

The Return Of The 50 State Strategy

Dean crowd 2004

“Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign will maintain staff in all 50 states during the general election with an eye toward overwhelming Republicans in the fall and rebuilding the Democratic Party’s infrastructure thereafter.”

This is really the best news I’ve seen for awhile. Howard Dean implemented the 50-state strategy back in the day when he was DNC chair.  Under President Obama, it went by the wayside in favor of OFA. Hillary Clinton is super smart and she now realizes it is esssential to beating back the Republican party and making sure it stays dead this time.

According to Huffpo:

When he took over the Democratic National Committee following the 2004 election, Howard Dean implemented an across-the-map approach to rebuilding the party, arguing that Democrats could only regain a foothold in lost territory if they put people there.

“The 50-state strategy worked. It gave us the majorities in the House and the Senate, and then it was abandoned because Obama chose to go with OFA [Organizing For Action], which did not work, and the DNC scaled way back on it,” Dean, a supporter of and consultant to Clinton’s campaign, told HuffPost. “But I’m very pleased it is going to be rebuilt. I think they totally get that her legacy depends on having a Democratic Congress and that she has to start now.”

Click here to read the entire article

The Real Reason Wheat is Toxic (it’s not the gluten)

We hope this isn’t true.

The stories became far too frequent to ignore.

E-mails from folks with allergic or digestive issues to wheat in the United States experienced no symptoms whatsoever when they tried eating pasta on vacation in Italy.

Confused parents wondering why wheat consumption sometimes triggered autoimmune reactions in their children but not at other times.

In my own home, I’ve long pondered why my husband can eat the wheat I prepare at home, but he experiences negative digestive effects eating even a single roll in a restaurant.

There is clearly something going on with wheat that is not well known by the general public. It goes far and beyond organic versus nonorganic, gluten or hybridization because even conventional wheat triggers no symptoms for some who eat wheat in other parts of the world.

What indeed is going on with wheat?

For quite some time, I secretly harbored the notion that wheat in the United States must, in fact, be genetically modified. GMO wheat secretly invading the North American food supply seemed the only thing that made sense and could account for the varied experiences I was hearing about.

I reasoned that it couldn’t be the gluten or wheat hybridization. Gluten and wheat hybrids have been consumed for thousands of years. It just didn’t make sense that this could be the reason for so many people suddenly having problems with wheat and gluten in general in the past 5-10 years.

Finally, the answer came over dinner a couple of months ago with a friend who was well versed in the wheat production process. I started researching the issue for myself, and was, quite frankly, horrified at what I discovered.

The good news is that the reason wheat has become so toxic in the United States is not because it is secretly GMO as I had feared (thank goodness!).

The bad news is that the problem lies with the manner in which wheat is harvested by conventional wheat farmers.

You’re going to want to sit down for this one. I’ve had some folks burst into tears in horror when I passed along this information before.
Wheat harvest protocol in the United States is to drench the wheat fields with Roundup several days before the combine harvesters work through the fields as withered, dead wheat plants are less taxing on the farm equipment and allows for an earlier, easier and bigger harvest

Pre-harvest application of the herbicide Roundup or other herbicides containing the deadly active ingredient glyphosate to wheat and barley as a desiccant was suggested as early as 1980. It has since become routine over the past 15 years and is used as a drying agent 7-10 days before harvest within the conventional farming community.

(Click here to read the entire article)

Our Victory On Net Neutrality

al franken on net

Yesterday’s victory on net neutrality:

A federal court of appeals fully upheld the FCC’s strong net neutrality rules to keep the internet open, fair, and free.

This is a victory for the millions of Americans like you who made your voices heard in support of a fair and free internet — who petitioned your government, spoke out on social media, and stood up for what you believe.

As President Obama said in 2014:

“Net neutrality’ has been built into the fabric of the internet since its creation — but it is also a principle that we cannot take for granted. We cannot allow internet service providers to restrict the best access or to pick winners and losers in the online marketplace for services and ideas.”

Today’s ruling reaffirms this. And it’s why the President has so strongly supported net neutrality since he was a Senator, and continues to work every day to protect the internet ecosystem: because it remains one of the greatest gifts our economy — and our society — has ever known.

Thanks again for raising your voices on this platform,

— The We the People Team

P.S. Check out this timeline to see the progress we’ve made on net neutrality.

Meryl Streep Pays Tribute to Hillary Clinton

If you haven’t seen this yet, now would be a good time.

Dave Loebsack Introduces National Flood Research and Education Act

Dave Loebsack IA02

Dave Loebsack IA02

Iowa is well served by our only Democrat in Congress, Rep. Dave Loebsack.  Follow Dave on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.


Eight years ago this month, a devastating flood spread throughout our state. In its wake, homes, buildings, and communities were destroyed, but Iowans did not give up hope. There were Iowans who lost everything, but we did as we always do when things get tough, we banded together, and have come a long way on the road toward full recovery. We saw neighbors helping neighbors, strangers showed up with shovels to help muck up basements; and first responders worked around the clock to ensure no lives were lost. We also witnessed firsthand the long-lasting repercussions from flooding and the need to do more to predict, prevent and recover from them. Unfortunately, there is still no national-level, comprehensive effort to research flood related issues.

To help communities facing the threat of flooding, I’ve been working hard to sandbag gaps in the way our nation prepares for and addresses floods. Today, I am proud to introduce the National Flood Research and Education Act (NFREA). This legislation would establish the first National Flood Research and Education Center (NFREC) under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The NFREC would conduct research to advance the understanding of the causes of flooding, flood prevention and other flood-related issues. Flooding can lead to the loss of lives and cause billions of dollars in damage, which is why these issues require a national-level, comprehensive and collaborative research effort. We must develop the best policies to help prevent future damage nationwide.

While eight years may seem like a long time, many Iowa communities are still rebuilding and working to mitigate future floods. I am hopeful Congress will act on my bill to establish the National Flood Research and Education Center, so communities throughout Iowa and the nation will be able to better predict, prepare, prevent and recover from future floods.

Dave Loebsack
Iowa’s Second District

How Many Will Sign The Pledge Of Resistance?

Ed Fallon, "People need to be thinking of what changes they can make in their own life."

Ed Fallon, “People need to be thinking of what changes they can make in their own life.”

Action Alert from Ed Fallon

Dear Friends,

I hate being confined, trapped, imprisoned. I’d rather beat myself to a pulp walking across continents than spend time behind bars.

But the hour has come in the fight to stop the Bakken Pipeline when mass civil disobedience is needed. If you haven’t yet signed the Pledge of Resistance, please read it over and sign today.

If you have signed, please share the Pledge with your networks, as we need 1,000 people committed to risking arrest if our show of force is to be credible and effective.

We no longer have a lot of time or options in this fight. Other strategies have delayed the pipeline and deepened public opposition. Hundreds of patriotic Iowans who value life, liberty and our land have fought this battle through every available venue. Ten brave holdout landowners continue to pursue legal redress through the courts.

But even that won’t stop Dakota Access from tearing up Iowans’ farmground, forests and river bottoms. A ruling on the lawsuit will work its way through the legal system slowly. In the meantime, Dakota Access is poised to push forward with construction.

We need President Obama and the Army Corps of Engineers to step forward to do what’s right, to put an end to the madness of this unprecedented expansion of fossil-fuel infrastructure, enabled by an abuse of eminent domain that violates the very heart of the U.S. Constitution.

We need the President and the Corps to make the right policy decision, and we need them to do it NOW.

Important policy changes often come only after a dramatic show of force by large groups of committed people defiantly and nonviolently breaking the law. That’s why YOU signing the Pledge of Resistance is so important.

It’s a tough decision, and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. As you weigh the decision of whether or not to sign, consider this:

  •  The large protests at farm foreclosure auctions in the 1980s inspired broader public empathy for family farmers and led to Congress adopting Chapter 12 of the Bankruptcy Code in 1986, which “brought some helpful and much-needed relief to many financially-distressed farmers,” according to Donald Swanson in The 1980s Farm Crisis: Some Lessons Learned.
  • The Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act passed only after mass mobilizations and thousands of arrests by African Americans and others in the 1960s.
  • The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granting women the right to vote passed after years of protest, agitation and nonviolent civil disobedience by brave women and their enlightened male allies.

We’re at that point in the battle to stop Big Oil from running roughshod over farmers, landowners, tribal communities, our water and our land. In Iowa and across the country, patriotic Americans are fighting back against pipelines, fracking and drilling.

The tide is turning in our favor, as pipelines were recently stopped in Georgia, New England, New York and elsewhere. With enough of us standing side by side with landowners who continue to resist, we can stop Bakken!

So please, sign the Pledge today!


Ed Fallon