This is a close-to-home example of what is wrong with media today – wasted newspaper space that could have been used to inform. [see Not Ready for Hillary, published in December, 2013.]
Almost Ready For Hillary
But I’m even readier for the media to grow up.
Recently, as editor of Blog for Iowa, I was contacted by a Washington Post political reporter who was working on a story about Hillary Clinton. Specifically, he wanted to talk about what he called “infamous” green snow shovels that the campaign gave out to supporters last time. He made no pretense of what he was doing. He basically was using the green snow shovel story to write a derisive article about Hillary, using a formula that the national media is enamored with now, focusing on some trite or sensationalistic aspect, and magnifying it – in this case, the (infamous!) snow shovels that I had not heard anything about or forgot.
Here is how he framed it:
“I’m a reporter for the Washington Post, covering national politics. I’m very sorry to bother you, but I wanted to ask your help on something. I’m writing a story about Hillary Clinton’s (in)famous green snow shovels: in the last days of the 2008 primary campaign in Iowa, Clinton’s folks bought more than 600 snow shovels and handed them out to precinct captains and other local leaders. I’m trying to find people who supported Hillary Clinton back then, and still have those shovels in their possession. I’d want to talk to them about their experience with that 2008 campaign, and whether they think Clinton has learned from her experience in Iowa back then.
I figured you might have seen or heard chatter from people who still have those shovels. I also was trying to figure out how I might put out a call for those folks on the Blog for Iowa, to ask if anybody had a shovel and wanted to talk with me about it. I’m going to be in Iowa next week, and would love to meet folks in person if they’re interested. I’m at 202.—.—-, if you’d rather talk by phone than over email.”
I replied to his query this way:
“Seriously? This is what you are using your position at the Washington Post to write about? You want to talk about shovels? How depressing. And you call yourself a journalist? We’re not in the Hillary camp yet, but we’re still not going to help you write your pathetic little “let’s make fun of Hillary” piece. We will talk to reporters that are covering the issues. Thanks for contacting us. I’m sure you’ll find plenty of idiots who will love to help you out but it’s not going to be us.”
Disclaimer: I admit that my reply was a little terse. Also, I had no idea at the time who if anyone spoke with this reporter, and I am not calling any specific person who talked to him an idiot. Iowans are just nice people. I did not hear from him again.
Last week, the story appeared on Washingtonpost.com, and it was as I expected. At the top a gigantic headline, “In 2008, Clinton Couldn’t buy Iowans’ love. So she bought them snow shovels” topped by a cute, folksy photo of some typical Iowans with one of the “infamous” shovels. The snow shovels were mentioned no fewer than 24 times throughout the article. There was not one but four photos of Iowans with shovels, evenly distributed throughout the text so that no matter where you were on the page, you could see one. The reporter extracted quotes from Hillary supporters who said of course, living in Iowa, they didn’t need a shovel because they already had one.
This is a close-to-home example of what is wrong with media today – wasted newspaper space that could have been used to inform. This guy spent two weeks of his life putting together this silly hatchet piece. He came out to Iowa for the purpose of getting photos of supporters with shovels! And we accept this as normal political reporting. The reporter could have asked open questions about what issues Clinton supporters think are going to be important this time around. Instead, he used what he thought was a clever hook (or click-bait) and in my view, very transparently tried to build a negative story around it with the intention of making her look bad.
To be fair, the shovel story would have been worth a mention, if the article had had a more authentic goal. But it wasn’t worth the singular focus of the article.
I’m almost ready for Hillary now. And articles like this one, are helping me get there.
Reprinted with permission from the Summer 2015 issue of The Prairie Progressive, Iowa’s oldest progressive newsletter, available only in hard copy for $12/yr.!! Send check to PP, Box 1945, Iowa City 52244.
“Donald Kaul has written columns for half a century, beginning with a long stint at the Des Moines Register that made him a household name (in a good way) throughout Iowa. OtherWords began distributing his columns in 2001 following his retirement from the Register. Kaul, who was named a Pulitzer Prize finalist for commentary in 1987 and 1999, lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. You can read more about his career in this column. He regularly writes OtherWords commentaries.”
Obama’s Amazing Grace
by Donald Kaul
If Martin Luther King’s I Have A Dream speech is the 20th century equivalent of Abraham Lincoln’s magnificent Second Inaugural — and I think it is — then what President Barack Obama gave us in Charleston, South Carolina is our century’s Gettysburg Address.
He gave a marvelous eulogy that was powerful and eloquent. He was moving without resorting to sentimentality.
Obama embraced the life of Reverend Clementa Pinckney, slain in his historically black church by a white racist only days before. Rather than merely eulogizing the man, Obama traced the black experience in America, all through its history of slavery, war, segregation, discrimination, mass imprisonment, and murder.
And despite the bleakness of that history, Obama found redemption in Pinckney’s life. He talked about the reverend’s gift of grace, and how grace has buoyed African Americans through their darkest times and armed them with a kind of invulnerability.
Was Obama trying to say that black people are truly invulnerable? Of course not. But through the deeds of people like Pinckney and the notion of grace they embody, black Americans have survived.
The message was all the more effective because Obama delivered it in the cadences of the black church. As he wrapped it up, he broke into the hymn “Amazing Grace” and invited the audience to join in.
He went into that funeral at the College of Charleston as a president who happened to be black. He left it as a black man who happened to be president.
I don’t know how much good it will do. Maybe some. It looks like the Confederate battle flag will be taken down from its perch at the South Carolina State House and other public buildings across the South. In terms of symbolism, that’s no small thing.
“Removing the flag from this state’s Capitol would not be an act of political correctness,” Obama said. “It would not be an insult to the valor of Confederate soldiers. It would simply be an acknowledgment that the cause for which they fought — the cause of slavery — was wrong. The imposition of Jim Crow after the Civil War, the resistance to civil rights for all people, was wrong.”
When have you heard an American president cut through the mythology with which the South has wrapped the Civil War — the “War Between the States,” they call it, or even the “War of Northern Aggression” — with so simple and direct a statement? The cause for which they fought was wrong. Period. End of argument.
The greatness of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address wasn’t universally accepted when it was delivered. Lincoln’s partisan enemies said it was inappropriate to the occasion, and some of them even attacked it as “silly.”
I don’t watch Fox News (doctor’s orders). But I imagine its crew of political harpies and trolls gave the Charleston eulogy a similar welcome.
I feel sorry for them. I forgive them. I’m in that kind of mood. I’m as close to a state of grace as you can get without actually believing in God.
But I believe in something: a power that’s larger than oneself that arises from masses of people struggling for justice and listening to — as Lincoln said in his first inaugural address — “the better angels of their nature.”
Some people will call Obama’s speech political. Of course it was. He is, after all, the president of the United States. Every word out of his mouth is political in some way or another.
How, he asked, can we permit so many of our children to live in poverty, and for tens of thousands of our young people to be caught up in our criminal justice system? How can we make it harder for some of our fellow citizens to vote?
He indicted our relative indifference to the carnage of gun violence that takes 30 lives every day in our nation.
“Every time something like this happens, somebody says we have to have a conversation about race,” Obama said. “We don’t need more talk.”
It’s time to do something.
OtherWords columnist Donald Kaul lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. OtherWords.org
Grass-based, organic dairy farmer Francis Thicke can be followed on Facebook.
by John Feinblatt
Every four years, the national media looks to Iowa for stories about where American voters stand on pressing issues.
After what happened this spring here in Des Moines, it’s clear where Iowans stand on guns and public safety — and how Iowans made their voices heard is a story that deserves to be told.
It starts in the Statehouse, where the NRA’s lobbyists pushed Senate File 425. The bill set out to overturn a longstanding background check requirement on private handgun sales. In effect, the gun lobby wanted to get rid of a provision that helps ensure guns sold at places like gun shows and via the Internet are subject to the same rules as guns sold at federally licensed dealers.
In quickly advancing the bill to the floor, gun lobby-aligned lawmakers conveniently avoided talking about what the bill would actually do. They went so far as to say that that the bill was focused on “safety improvements.” They also touted the bill’s other provisions, including those that would streamline the law to ease some restrictions on law-abiding gun owners. The lobbyists never mentioned repealing background checks. That makes sense, since 88 percent of Iowans support the background check policy.
In the run-up to the final vote on the Senate floor, I reached out to Republican strategists in Iowa to see whether the NRA could be stopped.
“Not a chance,” longtime political observers told me. “They’re too powerful and once they’ve gotten something on the floor, there’s no way to beat them.”
We’ve heard that line for years. Too often, we’ve taken it for granted. The truth is, there’s only one way to find out if the conventional wisdom is actually accurate: show up and fight back.
And that’s what we did.
The Iowa chapter of Moms Demand Action, part of Everytown for Gun Safety, went to work. Iowa moms made nearly 5,000 phone calls to state senators, explaining what the bill really would do. They held an advocacy day and delivered petitions filled with signatures. They ran informational advertisements in newspapers across the state.
Most important, they talked face to face with their friends and neighbors.
In the end, the so-called experts were wrong. The Legislature never passed the bill, and the “unbeatable” gun lobby saw its top legislative priority in Iowa defeated.
The lesson we should take from Iowa is simple, and bears repeating.
When people know what’s in a bill —when legislators understand the consequences of what they’re voting on — they’ll do the right thing.
Using misleading language to mask a bill’s true purpose may have worked in the past, but it didn’t this time. Once we got away from the horse-trading lobbyists at the Capitol and into cities and towns throughout the state, we saw that the public wanted to keep the background check system in place. Iowans know that keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous felons is just common sense. Like the vast majority of Americans, they believe that Second Amendment rights go hand in hand with basic safety measures.
The defeat of SF 425 is more than just a political victory, though. Iowans will be safer as a result of its defeat. We know this because in nearby Missouri, legislators overturned a background check requirement in 2007 and the results were deadly. Research by the scholar Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, found that after Missouri did the gun lobby’s bidding and gutted its background check system, the state’s gun homicide rate increased by nearly 25 percent. We know, too, that the gun suicide rate in Iowa is 27 percent lower than in states that lack comprehensive background check measures.
Ultimately, the win in Iowa serves as yet another reminder that when you try new approaches and get voters engaged on an issue, powerful interests can be defeated.
When the people go head to head against the gun lobby, the people —and public safety —can prevail.
John Feinblatt is the president of Everytown for Gun Safety. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Progress Iowa has done an exemplary job of exposing the workings of ALEC in Iowa and holding conservatives accountable. Click here to check out Progress Iowa’s website. Please support them if you can. Video below is news coverage by a Mason City local TV station, KIMT.
Congressman Steve King and Senator Joni Ernst accepted thousands of dollars from a white supremacist linked to the tragic shootings in Charleston, South Carolina. A petition launched by Progress Iowa was signed by more than 1,000 in less than 4 hours, and led to both King and Ernst using those donations to support the Mother Emanuel Hope Fund, in support of the shooting’s victims.
“We are here today to remember a man of God who lived by faith. A man who believed in things not seen. A man who believed there were better days ahead, off in the distance. A man of service who persevered, knowing full well he would not receive all those things he was promised, because he believed his efforts would deliver a better life for those who followed.”
On March 23, 2010, I sat down at a table in the East Room of the White House and signed my name on a law that said, once and for all, that health care would no longer be a privilege for a few. It would be a right for everyone.
Five years later, after more than 50 votes in Congress to repeal or weaken this law and multiple challenges before the Supreme Court, here is what we know today:
This law worked. It’s still working. It has changed and saved American lives. It has set this country on a smarter, stronger course.
And it’s here to stay.
If that means something to you today, add your voice here. Tell us how the Affordable Care Act has impacted your family’s life and health.
This morning, the Supreme Court upheld one of the most critical parts of health reform — the part that has made it easier for Americans to afford health insurance, no matter where you live.
If the challenges to this law had succeeded, millions would have had thousands of dollars in tax credits taken away. Insurance would have once again become unaffordable for many Americans. Many would have even become uninsured again. Ultimately, everyone’s premiums could have gone up.
Because of this law, and because of today’s decision, millions of Americans will continue to receive the tax credits that have given about 8 in 10 people who buy insurance on the new Health Insurance Marketplaces the choice of a health care plan that costs less than $100 a month.
If you’re a parent, you can keep your kids on your plan until they turn 26 — something that has covered millions of young people so far. That’s because of this law. If you’re a senior, or have a disability, this law gives you discounts on your prescriptions — something that has saved 9 million Americans an average of $1,600 so far. If you’re a woman, you can’t be charged more than anybody else — even if you’ve had cancer, or your husband had heart disease, or just because you’re a woman. Your insurer has to offer free preventive services like mammograms. They can’t place annual or lifetime caps on your care.
And when it comes to preexisting conditions — someday, our grandkids will ask us if there was really a time when America discriminated against people who got sick. Because that’s something this law has ended for good.
Five years in and more than 16 million insured Americans later, this is no longer just about a law. This isn’t just about the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.
Today is a victory for every American whose life will continue to become more secure because of this law. And 20, 30, 50 years from now, most Americans may not know what “Obamacare” is. And that’s okay. That’s the point.
Because today, this reform remains what it always has been — a set of fairer rules and tougher protections that have made health care in America more affordable, more attainable, and more about you.
That’s who we are as Americans. We look out for one another. We take care of each other. We root for one another’s success. We strive to do better, to be better, than the generation before us, and we try to build something better for the generation that comes behind us.
And today, with this behind us, let’s come together and keep building something better. That starts right now.
President Barack Obama
A bipartisan bill to expand broadband internet access to more homes, schools and businesses was signed into law by Governor Branstad last week. The bill also contains language regarding uniformity for local governments when approving cell tower siting applications.
Communication providers identified the cost of laying fiber optics as one of, if not the, main barrier to expansion of broadband service into rural Iowa. Under House File 641, a provider can apply for and receive a ten-year property tax exemption for the installation of broadband in identified targeted areas. The Legislature also created a Broadband Grant Fund that providers can access for assistance, up to 15% of qualified installation projects.
A targeted service area is one that is defined to an area that doesn’t have a communication service provider that offers or facilitates broadband service at or above 25 megabits per second of download speed and 3 megabits per second of upload speed. The property tax exemption will be for projects that begin on or after July 1, 2015, and will no longer be available for projects beginning July 1, 2020.
Cell Tower Siting
A uniform process was created for the location of new cell towers, modifications of existing cell towers, and collocation of cell towers and the rights and responsibilities of local governments for approval of the towers. The goal of the legislation is find the right balance between how much information must be provided by the cell tower applicant and how much authority a local government can have over these decisions.
Applicants (cell tower companies) will be required to provide an explanation as to why they are asking to build new rather than to collocate with an existing tower. Local governments feel that this information is important to help them in make an unbiased decision. Likewise, local governments must approve an application for a new tower in 150 days, or the application is automatically approved. This gives applicants a definitive timeline to help with their business decisions.