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Almost #Ready For Hillary

ReadyThis 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, 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.

Prairie Dog

Prairie Dog

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.

Kaul: Obama Speech Is Our Century’s Gettysburg Address

donald kaulOtherWords

“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.

Francis Thicke: “We Have Broken The Relationship Between Plants And Soil”

Grass-based, organic dairy farmer Francis Thicke can be followed on Facebook.


How The Gun Lobby’s Top Legislative Priority In Iowa Was Defeated


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:

Ernst And King Forced To Give Money Back

AlecProgress 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.


A Musical Day In America

President Obama’s Uplifting Eulogy For Reverend Clement Pinckney

“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.”

President Obama: A Victory For Every American

president obamaPresident Obama’s statement on the Supreme Court decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act. 

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.

This is health care in America.

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.

Thank you,

President Barack Obama


Iowa Will Have Expanded Broadband Internet Access

iowa capitol Something good came out of the Iowa legislature this session.

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.

This Week On The Fallon Forum: Pipeline Bullies

Listen live Mondays at 11

Dear Friends,

Business and political leaders in Iowa have been outspoken against bullying – a problem in our classrooms, on our playgrounds and in our streets. But these same leaders ignore – and actually enable – the corporate bullying tactics of Dakota Access in its aggressive push to build the Bakken Oil Pipeline.

This was on my mind this morning when, through bleary eyes, the above-the-fold Des Moines Register headline screamed at me: “Firm: Most pipeline land secured”

Really? Sixty percent is “most?” If my kid leaves 40% of his dinner on his plate, he doesn’t get dessert. If I buy you a beer and you leave 40% in your glass, I’m unlikely to buy you another. “Most” involves a lot of grey area, but rarely does it mean a mere 60%.

Furthermore, as one reads the article, the 60% figure is highly disputed.

And as to the word “firm” – very clever double-entendre on the part of the Register’s editors, using a synonym for “company” that is never used in the article itself, while implying that the pipeline is a done deal.

There are two types of corporate bullying, and Dakota Access is good at both of them. First, there’s the direct approach:

– Tell farmers they should sign an easement or risk condemnation.

– Trespass on private property and wax defiant when confronted by landowners.

– Stockpile pipe on a central Iowa farm even before a permit has been granted.

Then there’s indirect bullying, getting others to do the bullying for you. Dakota Access’ billionaire owner, Kelcy Warren, has deep, deep pockets. He knows how to throw around his financial weight, to get others to either do his bidding or meekly step aside and abdicate their responsibility to protect the public good. Consider that:

– Warren has bought off labor unions – and along with them, the state’s Democratic leadership – with the promise of a handful of temporary jobs.

– He’s bought off the state’s Republican leadership with campaign contributions.

– Though we can’t see the smoking gun, he’s silenced the leadership of Farm Bureau, who historically would be front-and-center in any battle to protect private property from eminent domain.

– And it’s likely that Warren has bought off some of the corporate media through advertising revenue, although again, there is no discernible smoking gun . . . at least not yet.

Part of the problem is that the corporate bully is harder to identify than the playground bully. When the latter comes at you, the meanness in his eyes makes it clear you’re about to get your butt kicked. The corporate bully on the other hand smiles, wears a suit, drives a nice car, looks respectable.

And his victim doesn’t sport a black eye when the corporate bully moves on to his next target. Yet a black eye will heal far more quickly than the wounds Dakota Access threatens to inflict on our farms, our water, and our planet.

My life this year has been committed to stopping the Bakken Oil Pipeline. The work I feel called to do springs from my passion for our Earth, land and water. Yet as I walked 400-miles along the route of the proposed pipeline in March and April, my passion grew to embrace the hundreds of people I met along the way – farmers and landowners adamantly opposed to having their land condemned for a pipeline, even as some felt they had no option but to sign an easement.

I heard story after story of the bullying tactics of Dakota Access, its representatives and its surrogates. These tactics, and headlines such as the one in today’s Des Moines Register, are designed to cause despair, to make us abandon hope.

Don’t! This fight is far from over. As the battle shifts from legislative chambers to the Iowa Utilities Board office and Iowa’s courtrooms, never forget that on our side we have truth in a just cause. I leave you with this quote from Gandhi:

“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it–always.”

Join us live on The Fallon Forum, Mondays 11:00-12:00 noon CDT on KDLF 1260 AM (Des Moines) and online. Call (515) 528-8122 to add your voice to the conversation. The program re-broadcasts Wednesday on KHOI 89.1 FM (Ames) at 4:00 p.m., and Wednesday on KPVL 89.1 FM (Postville) at 7:00 p.m. Podcasts are available at

Thanks! – Ed Fallon