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Opting Out Of Black Friday

jim hightowerOur household has been an REI member for years. Our idea of a good time is a road trip to Madison to visit the huge, amazing REI store where they have everything you could possibly need for any outdoor adventure. Bikes, canoes, skis, tents, gear, clothing, even outdoor accessories for your dog. Iowa now has an REI store that recently opened in Des Moines. Check it out. But not today!

Stop Shopping, Start Living

REI is doing its part to preserve the spirit of Thanksgiving.

By Jim Hightower

“Enough!” says REI.

REI, the national purveyor of outdoor gear and sporting goods, says it will no longer participate in the shopping spectacle known as “Black Friday.” This ritual of non-stop door-buster sales now overwhelms Thanksgiving.

The national retail co-op with 143 stores and $2.2 billion a year in sales is raising the ethical bar by boycotting Black Friday. Instead of shopping on the Thursday and Friday of Thanksgiving weekend, REI is urging its workers and customers to break out — literally.

Take a walk with family and friends, enjoy a bike ride, visit a public park, and otherwise get outside the soul-suffocating syndrome of constant consumerism.

What a concept: Don’t shop — live. Connect with people, nature, the spirits…and yourself. For more information, go to REI’s special website:

This holiday is meant to be a calm, family-oriented time to get away from all the hubbub of life and reflect on our blessings. Yet in recent years, such national chains as Macy’s and Wal-Mart have led a corporate assault on Thanksgiving with a buy-buy-buy blitz of consumer come-ons.

“Rush to the mall,” shout the barrage of Black Friday ads — enticing us to reduce our values to shallow monetary value — i.e., discounted stuff. They’ve turned this contemplative day of thanks into a weekend of worshipping mammon.

OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also the editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown, and a member of the Public Citizen board.

Top 5 Thanksgiving Dinner Debate Tips

starbucks cupTimely advice from our friends at ProgressIowa

If you’re like me, you’ve got a lot of Thanksgiving food, family fun, and a heaping helping of face time with your conservative relatives.

Are you the only progressive voice at the dinner table? Will you be cornered by a conservative Uncle who wants to spit out the latest talking points from Bill O’Reilly or Rush Limbaugh?

Don’t worry — we’ve got you covered. From Donald Trump to Starbucks cups, we’ll arm you with the information you need to stand your ground. And if you need additional guidance, send us a message to our email hotline: Progress Iowa will be ready to assist however we can!

Once you’ve read our guide, click here to check it out online and share with your friends and family!

Thank you, good luck, and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Matt Sinovic
Progress Iowa

On the Issues: How to Debate Your Conservative Uncle this Thanksgiving!


Conservative Uncle Says: “After what happened in Paris, we can’t afford to let any of the Syrian refugees into our country.”

You Say: The U.S. has highly effective and very rigorous procedures to check the background of each refugee. Unlike in Europe, it’s incredibly difficult for refugees from Syria to walk up to American soil. We have time to investigate, and we investigate very well, with the process lasting up to two years for each refugee. In addition, not one of the attackers in Paris has been identified as a Syrian refugee. Finally, it’s the right thing to do. More than two thirds of the refugees are women and children, and our country is built on the hard work of immigrants and people who came here in search of a better life.

[Sources: TIME outlines the vetting process for refugees; Mashable shows that not one of the Paris attackers has been identified as a Syrian refugee]


Conservative Uncle Says: “Why are Hillary and Bernie talking about unfair pay for women, is that even real? Some women choose different jobs than men, it’s natural some of them pay less.”

You Say: The gap in pay between women and men is all too real. Women make just 78 cents for every dollar a man makes, and it’s even worse for African American women (65 cents) and Latinas (54 cents). Women are paid less despite their profession. Just two examples are women physicians and surgeons, who make just 62% of what their male counterparts make, and financial managers, a profession where women make just 67% of a male’s salary. If nothing is done to solve this crisis, women will not receive equal pay until the year 2058.

[Sources: Status of Women in the States, detailing the wage gap; Center for American Progress, showing wage gap by occupation]


Conservative Uncle Says: “It shouldn’t be Black Lives Matter, we should say All Lives Matter!”

You Say: Black lives have been disproportionately marginalized in this country, from discriminatory laws, income inequality, and a biased criminal justice system. Using the phrase Black Lives Matter calls out the barriers to opportunity and justice Black Americans face every day. Think of it as saying “Black Lives Matter, too,” which unfortunately is a statement that needs to be made. In addition, many black adults grew up living with racist housing policies. Black people have the right to vote, but new restrictions are trying to make it harder to vote. And every day, black people continue to face a criminal justice system that treats them harsher than everyone else.

[Sources: The Atlantic discusses racist housing policies; Huffington Post covers voting restrictions; Vox details racism in the criminal justice system]


Conservative Uncle Says: “At least he has the guts to tell the truth, you always know where he stands.”

You Say: No, not at all. Donald Trump lies, and he lies a lot. He has lied about immigrants, that Arabs cheered in New Jersey on 9/11, the race of victims of murder, and on and on. As for where he stands? Trump has flipped and flopped on issues such as Syrian refugees, taxes, and whether or not to cut military spending.

[Sources: Mother Jones for 26 of Trump’s lies; Washington Post for 6 of Trump’s flip flops]


Conservative Uncle Says: “Why did Starbucks take Christmas off their cups? Isn’t this just political correctness gone wild?”

You Say: You’re joking, right? This is a completely made up controversy. Don’t you have anything better to get upset about? (If that doesn’t work, click here to show him this list of Christmas-themed products offered by Starbucks, proving that a red cup is simply a red cup).

Are Iowa Republicans Blum And King Koch Brothers Employees?

AlecThey might as well be. They are apparently working for the Kochs’ agenda, not for Iowans.  Here is a message from the Iowa Democratic Party:

Rod Blum Receives Award from Koch Brothers-Backed Group Pushing to Dismantle Medicare and Social Security

No surprise: Blum Voted to Gut Medicare and Social Security for Iowa Seniors Earlier this Year

DES MOINES – The Dubuque Telegraph Herald reported this weekend that the 60 Plus Association, a Koch Brothers-funded group that advocates for turning Medicare into a voucher program and privatizing Social Security, [profitizing] awarded Rod Blum with the misleadingly titled “Guardian of Seniors Rights Award.”

In response, IDP Press Secretary Josh Levitt issued the following statement:

“Given that Rod Blum voted this year to dismantle Medicare and Social Security, it’s no surprise that he was given an award from the 60 Plus Association – a Koch Brothers-backed organization that shills for the destruction of Medicare and Social Security as we know it. With friends like these, Blum might be packing up his office before the award even makes it on his wall.”

Rod Blum has received a 100% voter score from the Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity this year.

Contact: Josh Levitt

Stop Paul Ryan From Ending Medicare

Dave Loebsack IA02

Dave Loebsack IA02

Message from Congressman Dave Loebsack (D)

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Medicare, a program that has long been a safety net for our seniors who rely on it for their basic healthcare needs.

However, House Republicans, led by Speaker Paul Ryan want to end Medicare as we know it.

The extreme budget they’ve put forward would completely gut this program. This would hurt millions of seniors across the country.

We’ve got to stand up for our seniors now and demand that Medicare be protected.

I’m in Congress to fight for our seniors and to make sure they have the benefits they’ve worked for their entire lives so they can retire with dignity.

Stand with me now and make sure Medicare is protected.


Dave Loebsack

protect medicare

Terrorists Are The Best Friends The Right Wing Ever Had


Bombs Won’t Cut It

By Donald Kaul

When Paris suffered attacks that killed 17 last January — at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket — it responded with great class.

Parisians filled the streets, locked arm-in-arm in solidarity against terrorism. Leaders from throughout Europe (but not, alas, President Barack Obama) joined them in a show of support.

And two days after the demonstration, Socialist Prime Minister Manuel Valls gave a memorable speech to the French National Assembly supporting the government’s declared “war on terrorism” but calling for the nation to maintain its principles of religious tolerance and separation of church and state.

At which point the deputies stood and gave him an ovation, then broke into La Marseillaise. It was a wonderful moment. (The French have a great national anthem and they use it like a sword).

I doubt that moment will be repeated any time soon. The November 13 attacks in Paris ushered the entire world through yet another door, into a darker place.

It is a place of fear. If a handful of lightly armed terrorists can bring one of the world’s great cities to its knees in a single evening, killing 129 and injuring hundreds more, then who among us is safe?

It was, in a sense, more ominous than the 9/11 attacks which, while more costly in blood and treasure, seemed almost unrepeatable. We were caught unawares and took steps to ensure that we wouldn’t be again. The bad guys got lucky.

The Paris attacks demonstrate how naïve that attitude is.

How can we protect ourselves against an insidious, almost invisible army that takes advantage of the best qualities of western society — its openness, its tolerance — to do it grievous harm?

French President François Hollande responded immediately by sending warplanes to bomb ISIS strongholds in Syria. I’m sure they killed some people, maybe even some terrorists. I can understand the response. You have to do something.

But that’s not much of something. Bombs won’t cut it.

The diabolical thing about this enemy is that it doesn’t present much of a target. For all the talk of establishing a caliphate, it doesn’t have a navy or an air force or even artillery worthy of the name. It works in small, secretive networks and kills in numbers greatly disproportionate to its military strength.

We call them terrorists for a reason: They terrify us.

Politically, they’re the best friends the right wing ever had.

French National Front Leader Marine Le Pen, who has long advocated closing the doors to immigration, is having her “I told you so” moment.

As are the anti-immigrant Republicans here. They’re lining up in favor of not allowing Muslim refugees fleeing the conflict in their home country sanctuary in ours. At least two dozen Republican governors have said they would refuse such refugees.

The Democrats, including Obama, have presented a far more reasonable response — not all refugees are terrorists, stay the course, blah-blah — which sounds weak in the heated atmosphere of a presidential campaign.

Even Donald Trump’s lunatic ravings against the invasion of Mexican rapists and drug dealers sound almost reasonable now.

“Here’s the problem,” said Marco Rubio, for once not mentioning that his father was a bartender and his mother was a cleaning lady. “You allow 10,000 people in. And 9,999 of them are innocent people feeling oppression. And one of them is a well-trained ISIS fighter.”

That sort of logic is more appealing now, when we have Islamic militants on our television screens promising to come get us.

So is the dismissal of the revelations of Edward Snowden on the universal surveillance we’re being subjected to. More surveillance? Sounds safer. Bring it on.

The real question is how all of this will affect our elections next year.

Will it inspire a sense of seriousness in the electorate that has been lacking so far? Or will it bend things toward the hardliners who want to hole up in Fortress America?

We’ll see.

OtherWords columnist Donald Kaul lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Medicaid Listening Sessions

medicaidThe Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will be hosting a series of Listening Sessions regarding Iowa’s High Quality Health Care Initiative. The initiative proposes to move Iowa’s delivery of most Medicaid services to a managed care delivery system effective January 1, 2016.

CMS must approve of the State’s proposal to move to a comprehensive Managed Care Delivery system.

There will be one more listening session targeted to Consumers and Advocates.

Consumers and Advocates  [Open to the general public]

November 19th 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm CST

Participant Toll-Free Dial-In Number: 1-800-837-19351-800-837-1935 FREE

Conference ID: 82231506

If you are aware of any individuals or organizations that may benefit from attending an upcoming session, please feel free to forward this invitation to them. To add an email address to the CMS Iowa Outreach contact list, please visit the following link to subscribe:

Although these listening sessions are meant for consumers and providers, they are open to the general public.

Help DFA Elect Progressive Candidates

dean campaignA request from Howard Dean:

I want to thank you all for the fantastic birthday card and all the warm wishes you sent along with it.

I find birthdays to not only be about celebrating but also a time to reflect on where you’ve come from and what you’ve been able to accomplish. I can hardly believe that it has been 35 years since I set out on a quixotic mission to upset big developers’ plans by building a new bike path along Lake Champlain — my very first political victory.

Soon after that victory I ran for State Representative and I knocked on every door — twice! But if you would have told me back then that I would go on to run for President, become Chair of the DNC, and found a million-member organization, I wouldn’t have believed you. I just knew that I needed to stand up and fight for what was right in the moment — and because I found a strong network of support, I found the courage I needed to move on to do much bigger things.

One of my favorite things about Democracy for America is that it offers a network of support to progressive candidates all across the country. No other organization does quite what DFA does — which is why it’s really important to me that DFA continues to grow and succeed.

I would like it if you could celebrate my birthday and all we’ve accomplished together by supporting DFA. Will you chip in $3 or more on my birthday to help DFA build on our shared vision of a people-powered 50 State Strategy?

There are so many inspiring DFA success stories. Take, for example, newly-elected Virginia delegate Jennifer Boysko. Jennifer was the Virginia State Director for my presidential campaign back in the day, and DFA backed her in her first run for office in 2013, as a part of the statewide Purple to Blue effort to flip the legislature.

When Jennifer first got in the race in 2013, polls showed her down by a whopping 16-point margin. DFA staff helped her build her campaign from the ground up, and DFA members across the country made hundreds of calls into her Virginia district.

Two years ago this November, Jennifer lost that election by only 33 votes — a tighter margin than anyone could have imagined when she first jumped in the race.

For some partnerships between candidates and organizations, that might have been the end of the story. But DFA stuck by Jennifer. When she announced that she was going to run for the same seat again this year, DFA was the first to endorse her.

With the on-the-ground support of DFA members and staff, Jennifer ran another fantastic campaign — and this time, on Election Day two weeks ago, Jennifer was elected in a thrilling victory few would have predicted two years ago.

When I suspended my campaign for president, I chose to found DFA because I knew what the amazing network that had built up around my candidacy had done for me, personally and professionally — and I wanted it to be there to support future progressive candidates like Jennifer and so many others.

DFA has been more successful than I could have possibly imagined when it comes to helping progressives run and win — and I want to make sure this asset continues to be available for the next generation of candidates.

Today, on my birthday, will you please pitch in $3 or more to make sure DFA can continue to implement my 50 State Strategy by backing up progressive candidates who run for office — just like I did?

Thank you for all that you do. Together, we are unstoppable.

– Howard

Howard Dean, Founder
Democracy for America

Branstad To Iowans: Be Afraid Of Refugees

branstad2A sad day for Iowa.  Yesterday, Gov. Branstad ordered all state agencies to halt any work on Syrian refugee resettlements immediately, “in order to ensure the security and safety of Iowans” in light of the Paris attacks.

Let’s look at this in a broader context.  More than 32,000 people per year are killed by guns in the United States.  Yet we’re supposed to be afraid of a bunch of refugees because of a terrorist attack in France that while a tragedy, as all violence is, resulted in about the same number of deaths that occur by guns in the U.S. approximately every two days.

But at least Branstad’s approach to keeping out refugees is equal-opportunity rejection.  Jeb! wants a religious test.  Here’s what President Obama has to say about that.


The Facts About CAFOs Speak For Themselves

factory farm map

CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) proliferation is ruining Iowa. Jefferson County Farmers and Neighbors are fighting hard to save what we have left. Please share this article and help them get the facts out about CAFOs.

Letter to Editor Submitted in Response to Burlington Hawkeye Article

In the October 11, 2015 edition of the Burlington Hawkeye, business editor Rex Troute published a column, “Tired of the Tears Over Big Hog Operations.” The article was in response to the JFAN Annual Meeting. You can read a hard copy PDF of the article here.

In response, JFAN submitted the following letter to the editor. As of November 9, the letter has not been published. We are sharing it with you in full below.

The Facts About CAFOs Speak for Themselves

by Diane Rosenberg | Executive Director, Jefferson County Famers & Neighbors, Inc.

Rex Troute says he’s tired of the “crying over modern hog production, ” that we can’t go back to the old days, and should just accept industrial farming in order to efficiently “feed the world.” Anyone can throw out platitudes to make their point, however statements have more significance when they are backed by medical, scientific and environmental research. The Jefferson County Farmers & Neighbors Board of Directors takes exception to Mr. Troute’s comments and offers the following facts.

We’re going to have to change the way we raise hogs in Iowa because industrial hog production is destroying rural Iowa and infringing on the inalienable rights of thousands of Iowans to clean air and water and a good quality of life. And, yes, there are alternatives to CAFOs.

To address several of Mr. Troute’s points:

1. It’s a false argument to say rejecting CAFOs is just yearning for the “old days.” Many Iowans reject CAFOs because of the harm they cause to health, the environment, property values, rural economies, and quality of life – all documented in 50 years of scientific research.

2. Alternatives to CAFOs do exist. One example is raising hogs in hoop house operations using deeply bedded straw. Iowa State University researchers have found that the cost of raising hogs is comparable to CAFOs. The benefits? They employ more people, cost less to build, don’t need confinement pits or prophylactic antibiotics, and are humane. In fact, consumers are getting wise, increasingly demanding humanely raised, non-CAFO meat, opening up more opportunities for traditional producers.

3. There is no evidence that independent, traditional pork farmers can’t produce enough food without CAFOs. 80% of the world produces its food without the benefit of industrial agriculture reports the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. Until the agribusiness expansion pushed out independent farmers, thousands of traditional family farms produced plenty of food for the US and beyond. Yes, we have a larger population to feed than 30 years ago. But had agribusiness expansion not decimated independent producers, the number of farmers would have grown to meet the demand, and rural communities would be robust.

3. The foul, debilitating stench from CAFOs is vastly different than the “smell of money” produced by traditional farms. Today’s hog manure putrefies for 6-12 months in underground pits devoid of air and light. It produces over 300 chemicals including 150 gases. Hydrogen sulfide and ammonia are among the worst, causing headaches, nausea, vomiting, confusion and respiratory ailments – all documented by peer-reviewed studies.

4. That some hog waste wound up in streams when hogs were on pasture is a typical industry talking point. But it’s an indisputable fact that the DNR documents a three-fold increase in impaired waterways over the last 15 years as CAFOs continue to replace traditional farms.

The health, wealth, future, and even heart and soul of rural Iowa are being sacrificed for corporate profits. Iowa needs more people crying for a change otherwise Iowa risks becoming the nation’s “throwaway state” for the benefit of agribusiness interests.

Un-Koch Your Campus

unkoch my campus

Visit the website  In Iowa I found ISU, Cornell College, St. Ambrose Unversity, Buena Vista University, and Northwestern College on the list.  Click on the link to see if your college takes Koch money.