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Democrats Must Campaign On Progressive Values


Taking control of the Senate and increasing their majority in the House, Republicans swept the election, largely by tying Democrats to negative messaging around President Obama. Accepting the GOP message framework, Senate Democratic candidates like Alison Lundergan-Grimes, Mark Pryor, and Mark Udall took the bait. The Democratic Party failed to offer compelling economic alternatives — in many cases running as pseudo-conservatives — and suffered a drubbing as a result.

But there were progressive victories, in ballot initiatives for raising the minimum wage, legalizing marijuana, and mandating paid sick leave, and in races where Democrats were not afraid to stand on populist principles. Chief among them were Senators Al Franken, Jeff Merkley, and Gary Peters, whose races had all been considered up-for-grabs and were won with double-digit margins. Franken defended healthcare and banking reforms; Merkley spoke of the “commonsense battle between the 1% and the 99%;” and Peters supported capping student loan interest rates and expanding the social safety net.

In Philadelphia at the Progressive Congress, the annual summit of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, The Undercurrent spoke with Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI 2) about the path forward for the Democratic Party in the wake of its historic losses last year, and the CPC’s role in spurring a turn-around.


Republicans Attempt To Beat Back Net Neutrality Rules

Democracy for AmericaAction Alert from

“Net Neutrality Opponents Go To War.”

That was the headline of Huffington Post’s Net Neutrality article on Thursday — and it hits the nail on the head. Corporate internet providers and their allies in Congress are using every scare tactic they can think of to stop the FCC from reclassifying broadband.

Just look at the crazy lies the telecom industry’s most reliable friends in Congress are telling:

  • Sen. John Thune, Republican chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, called reclassification “a power grab for the federal government.
  • Sen Rand Paul sent a scare letter to his supporters warning that “President Obama and the FCC are going to take over the internet.”
  • Sen. Ted Cruz is calling the reclassification of broadband “a pernicious threat.”

This loud, frenzied rush to make Net Neutrality sound scary is no accident. Right now, pro-corporate Republicans in the House and the Senate are launching phony investigations of the FCC and the White House designed to make the FCC nervous . They want to drive up support for industry-backed legislation that would create huge loopholes in Net Neutrality protections.

The FCC will vote on whether or not to reclassify broadband on Thursday, February 26. We need to send a loud and clear message to Congress that they need to stop trying to scare the FCC out of doing the right thing.

Time is running out. Please read what our founder, Gov. Howard Dean, said below and then sign his DFA petition telling Congress not to mess with the FCC on Net Neutrality.

Thanks for fighting back. We’re not going to let AT&T and Verizon win this time.

– Karli

Karli Wallace Thompson, Campaign Manager
Democracy for America

And now a word from Howard Dean..

Last week was a great week for those of us who care about Net Neutrality. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced that he will ask the FCC to reclassify broadband as a utility — just like tens of thousands of Democracy for America members, including me, asked him to do.

This is a huge step in the fight for a permanently free and open internet — the kind of internet that allowed us to build Democracy for America together and will empower future generations to take online organizing to the next level.

But our fight to secure real Net Neutrality isn’t finished yet.

Some members of Congress are already pushing for telecom-friendly legislation that would strip the FCC of the power to reclassify broadband. They’re pitching it as a potential “bi-partisan compromise” on Net Neutrality — even though the FCC already has all the power it needs to protect the internet.

And just a few days ago, a few corporate-friendly House Republicans launched an investigation to determine if the White House had “improper influence” over the FCC’s proposal — a clear attempt to make this a partisan issue and intimidate the FCC.

We’re closer than we’ve ever been to winning a truly free and open internet for the long term. We can’t let the shenanigans of a few members of Congress and their corporate friends jeopardize this potential victory at the last minute.

Tell Congress: We don’t need investigations, and we don’t need new legislation. We need you to step back and let the FCC protect Net Neutrality.

Telecom companies like Verizon were never going to take regulation like this sitting down. They’re already threatening to attack reclassification in court if the FCC approves it.

Over the coming weeks, lobbyists from the big corporate internet providers are going to do everything they can to scare Congress into supporting legislation that would tie the FCC’s hands and leave open loopholes that would allow them to create slow lanes and fast lanes on the internet.

Your representatives are hearing from Verizon and AT&T right now. Let’s make sure they’re also hearing from voters like us who care about the internet. Sign my petition telling Congress not to meddle with the FCC on Net Neutrality now.

Thank you for helping save the internet.

– Howard

Gov. Howard Dean, Founder
Democracy for America

This Week On The Fallon Forum


Dear Friends,

Before I tell you why Joe Biden should run for President, here’s an event all pipeline fighters need to know about: The Midwest Tar Sands/Bakken Petroleum Summit. With pipelines threatening to sprout-up like weeds, Midwest organizers are working to build broader regional opposition. Next Saturday in Madison, WI, Jane Kleeb (NE), Winona LaDuke (MN), Beth Wallis (MI) and I share our perspectives on the issue. For the complete agenda, click here. Contact (608) 274-2845 or if you’d like to register.

So, when is a sitting two-term Vice President considered a long shot for the presidency? When his name’s Joe Biden, it seems.

Historically, both Republican and Democratic VPs are almost always regarded as the favored candidate when the office of President becomes available. In fact, the surest way to become President is to first serve as Vice President. Yet the press regularly refers to Biden as a long shot, and a recent poll found him landing only 9% of the Iowa Democratic Caucus vote.

Regardless of what you think of Biden’s stands on issues, the guy is articulate as the day is long. He has political and policy experience like no other presidential prospect – Democrat or Republican. He’s never been plagued by either financial or “relational” scandals. He works hard. And he’s a darn good pool player.

So what gives? I really don’t know the answer to this one, so help me out by sending your response to: or (Comment on the post at the top of the feed.)

I’ll share some of your responses on the Fallon Forum today at 11:00. And whether or not you’d support Joe Biden for President, as the sitting VP, he oughta run, right? He oughta at least give it a shot, don’t ya think?

You think I’m done spouting controversial drivel? Not even close! On today’s Fallon Forum, State Rep. Dan Kelley joins me to discuss sports betting. Five bucks says Dan’s against it. But is the clout and political acumen of the Rep. from Iowa’s Windy City (a.k.a., Newton) enough to defeat sports betting legislation making its way through the Statehouse with the backing of a hungry gambling lobby?

And no, I’m still not done. Vaccinations. If I had a needle stuck in my arm for every time someone told me this past week that, “Those anti-vaccine people just need to buck-up and have their kids vaccinated,” I’d look like an acupuncture client on life support. We’ll talk about this sticky issue, with opinions on both sides, on today’s Fallon Forum.

Now you know the answer to the question, “What do Joe Biden, sports betting and vaccines have in common?” Answer: They’ll all be discussed on today’s Fallon Forum.

Tune-in Monday, 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. CST on KDLF 1260 AM or online. Join the conversation by calling (515) 528-8122. You also can hear the Fallon Forum on KHOI 89.1 FM (Ames) at 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday and on KPVL 89.1 FM (Postville) at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday. Thanks!

Rally At The Capitol To Raise The Minimum Wage

Iowa State Capitol

Iowa State Capitol

TUESDAY: Rally to Raise the Wage

Statewide coalition of small businesses, faith leaders, community organizations to rally in support of a minimum wage increase on Tuesday at Noon

Des Moines, IA — Raise the Wage Iowa, a statewide coalition of small businesses, community leaders, labor and faith organizations will hold a Rally to Raise the Wage on Tuesday, February 17th to voice support for a minimum wage increase.

Iowa’s low-wage workers have gone longer than any in the country without a raise, and 5 out of 6 of our neighboring states have raised the minimum wage, leaving Iowa behind.

WHO: Raise the Wage Iowa Coalition


WHERE: Iowa State Capitol, Room 22, 1007 East Grand Ave, Des Moines, Iowa

WHEN: Tuesday, February 17th, 12:00 PM

The Raise the Wage Iowa coalition has organized events across the state, educating the public and supporting an increase in the minimum wage at the state and federal level. Research indicates that several hundred million dollars would be injected into the Iowa economy if the minimum wage is raised, and the government would save money because there would be a reduction in the number of Iowans who qualify for food stamps. Scientific surveys conducted by the Des Moines Register and Quinnipiac University show Iowans support raising the minimum wage by more than 65%.

Contact: Matt Sinovic, (515) 423-0530


AFSCME Iowa Council 61

American Friends Service Committee

Americans for Democratic Action

Des Moines Education Association

Food & Water Watch

Interfaith Alliance of Iowa Action Fund

Iowa Alliance for Retired Americans

Iowa Citizen Action Network

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Action Fund

Iowa City Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO

Iowa Community Action Association

Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL/CIO

Iowa Main Street Alliance

Iowa State Education Association

Methodist Federation for Social Action, Iowa Chapter

Planned Parenthood Voters of Iowa

Progress Iowa


SEIU Iowa – Local 199

South Central Federation of Labor, AFL/CIO

Working Families Win

Donald Kaul: Obama Commits Political Blunder, Tells The Truth


Telling the Truth about Religious Violence

Obama’s modest critique of Christian hypocrisy suddenly has Republicans defending the crusades.

By Donald Kaul

President Barack Obama committed the ultimate political blunder the other day. He blurted out the truth.

Speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast, he warned his Christian brethren against “getting up on our high horse” when condemning the violence of Muslim terrorists.

“During the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ,” he said. “In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.”

Naturally, all hell broke loose.

The Rupert Murdoch army launched into full attack, supported by Rush Limbaugh air strikes. Rabid Fox News commentators, foaming at the mouth, fought each other for control of the mics to condemn the president’s remarks as “un-American” and, even worse, liberal. He was derided as irreligious, weak, and not a real American.

It was to be expected.

People will forgive a politician for telling lies. Sweet deceptions, after all, are what politics are all about. But let him speak the truth just once, even inadvertently, and he becomes the object of scorn, ridicule, and contempt.

Remember the case of George Romney?

Running for president in 1967, he confessed that he had been “brainwashed” by Pentagon propaganda into believing that the Vietnam War was winnable. And he had been, of course, as had most of the American public at the time.

But as soon as Romney uttered this truthful statement, his presidential hopes vanished in a blink — never to be seen again.

I’d like to note that this lesson wasn’t lost on George’s son. As nearly as can be determined, Mitt Romney never told the truth once during his 2012 campaign. He lost anyway, proving that it takes more than a lack of honesty to fool the American people.

But back to Obama. What he was trying to say, at an inter-faith event, was that we shouldn’t hold all Muslims responsible for the acts of a relative few. Christianity also has a skeleton or two in its historical closet.

The Christian right, which includes most of the Republicans in Congress, pounced.

The Crusades were a righteous response to Islamic aggression, they said. The Inquisition? Highly overrated as an atrocity. And Jim Crow? That was “a thousand years ago,” said Limbaugh.

To which one can only say, “Oh come on.”

The truth is, you can act as though terrorist violence against the West is unprovoked. But it’s not. It’s the bitter fruit of the past 100 years of subjugation of the Arab and Muslim peoples by Western powers, thirsty for the oil beneath the Middle East.

For a century the United States and its allies systematically subverted any suggestion of democracy in the region in favor of vicious thugs we could control through bribery.

And when a popularly elected politician would surface every once in a while, we’d get rid of him and install our own puppet. Think of the popularly elected Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran, whom the CIA overthrew in 1953, replacing him with the brutal and corrupt Shah.

That’s the genesis of the mess we’re dealing with now. Not Islam, not pure evil, but 100 years of Western domination.

In any case, it’s more than a little hypocritical for the Christian right to be up in arms over the perversion of Christianity.

This is a group, after all, whose representatives in Congress have sought to take health insurance from the poorest workers among us. They’ve tried to deport young Americans because their parents brought them here without papers many years ago. They’ve supported the use of torture and fought to cut off unemployment insurance to the long-term unemployed.

Any of that remind you of Christianity?

OtherWords columnist 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. In July 2012, he had a heart attack and declared that he needed a break. In December 2012, he un-retired again but said he’d decided to write without the constraints of a schedule. 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. Due to a new bout of health challenges, Kaul began a new medical leave in October 2013. He has written two columns since then and OtherWords sometimes posts “flashback” columns when they may resonate due to current events.

Rick Perry Invited To Walk With Ed Fallon Along Bakken Pipeline Route

fallon forumFrom Ed Fallon:

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry has joined the board of Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), the company that wants to slice an oil pipeline through the heart of Iowa. One school of thought is that, since presidential wannabees usually divest themselves of the trappings of controversial affiliations rather than acquire them, Perry is not going to run for president. Another school of thought (mine) says that most politicians are so beholden to corporate donors that they’re willing to tick-off a chunk of voters rather than offend the monied teats upon which they suckle.

And suckle he did! In 2012, Kelcy Warren, the head of ETP, nurtured Perry’s 2012 presidential campaign with a generous flow of $250,000. That kind of money will buy a lot of attack ads. But how many private-property rights caucus goers is Perry willing to alienate in order to please this particular cash cow?

Well, here’s one potential Republican caucus goer who Perry just lost: ME! Yup. I’m a registered independent. And if the Democratic Establishment opts for the coronation of Hillary Clinton and effectively excludes other Democrats from running, why bother going to the Democratic caucus? The only place left for an open-minded, action-seeking type like me is the same place I went in 2012: the Republican caucus. There, I helped Ron Paul win my precinct, served as secretary, and successfully introduced resolutions defending property rights, limiting a city’s annexation authority, and defending a same-gender couple’s right to marry.

So, Gov. Perry, please come walk with me. Join me in March for a mile of Iowa county road somewhere along the route of the proposed Bakken Oil Pipeline. Let’s talk about how strongly Iowans feel about fairness – and how wrong it is that the Texas oil company on whose board you now serve is willing to condemn farmground – some of the best in the galaxy – for a pipeline that doesn’t benefit Iowans, and will potentially do us a whole lot of harm. It would be good for you to see the rich, black soil that would be compromised, and to meet some of the landowners whose lives and livelihoods would be disrupted. And let’s talk about climate change. Yeah, I know, some Republicans still think it’s a hoax. But for details on that, google “Texas drought and climate change,” and see what that bastion of liberal thinking – USA Today – has to say.

Got an opinion on Gov. Perry’s joining the board of ETP? Join the Fallon Forum today and call-in at (515) 528-8122 to share your thoughts. Also on today’s program: [Program aired live on Monday but you can still catch it Wednesday. See below for times]

– A representative with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition discusses the significance of the Justice Department’s release last week of new policies to reform civil asset forfeiture laws, which allow state and local police to seize assets from individuals without charging them with a crime – and use the proceeds for their own departments. Hmm. Your liquidated love seat buying coffee and donuts for the local PD? How’s that grab ya?

– Finally, Zac Couture with Lutheran Services in Iowa joins us to discuss his work with refugees through the Global Greens program and market. Learn about how some new Iowans are staying in touch with their agricultural roots, and how what they’re growing can add new flavor and diversity to your dining table.

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.”

Tune-in Monday, 11:00 am – 12:00 pm CST on KDLF 1260 AM or online. Join the conversation by calling (515) 528-8122. You also can hear the Fallon Forum on KHOI 89.1 FM (Ames) at 5:00 pm on Wednesday and on KPVL 89.1 FM (Postville) at 7:00 pm on Wednesday.


Iowa Woman Arrested, Charged, Tried, For…Voting

kelli griffinWhen we have to rely on the national cable news media to give the appropriate coverage to events happening right here in Iowa, it’s pretty bad.

Thank you, Melissa Harris-Perry and MSNBC reporter Zachary Roth for covering this egregious incident.  The woman in this story was a victim of domestic violence who served 5 years probation for a drug-related crime.  When she successfully completed her sentencing, she set out to put her life back together and to her, that included the civic responsibility of voting.  But instead of being able to move forward with her new life, she was arrested and charged with the crime of voting.

Kelli Griffin had no idea that the law had changed since Branstad got back in office.  Her lawyer had told her her voting rights would be restored. She had no idea it was now illegal in Iowa for people who have served time and who have paid their debt to society, to vote.  She even had to stand trial for making this honest mistake that harmed no one. Fortunately, a jury acquitted her.

This is the work of the Terry Branstad administration.  The irony is he is considered “moderate.”

Iowa Dogs In Puppy Mills Need SF 168

puppy lawsHere is an Action Alert from Iowa Voters for Companion Animals:

Thanks to Sen. Matt McCoy, a bill has been introduced into the state senate which will help provide protections to the 15,000 adult dogs in Iowa’s 220 puppy mills. The bill is SF 168 and has been referred to the Senate Commerce Committee.

Please click here to be directed to a page with super simple instructions and recommendations for generating your message. Then it will go directly to your senator! You don’t need to do anything except compose a 1-2 sentence message.

Please contact the committee members ASAP and ask them to “Pass SF 168 as it is written.”

Because the dogs have been waiting oh so long….

Click here to send your message



Iowa Law Makers: “We Have No Money This Year”

Iowa State Capitol

Iowa State Capitol

Posted on Iowa Labor News,  an electronic newsletter for the Labor Movement, specifically in Iowa, sponsored by the Iowa Federation of Labor AFL-CIO

By Charlie Wishman
Secretary/Treasurer Iowa Federation of Labor

All over the capitol, you’ll hear the same refrain from legislators from both parties. “We have no money this year.” It’s amazing what short memories they have, since many of them helped to cause this situation. We warned them two years ago that if they passed the “Largest Tax Cut In Iowa History,” (which was a massive property tax cut for corporate Iowa) we’d be in trouble in a short amount of time. It hasn’t taken long, and the effects are starting to show.

The Governor and his party have made some dangerous choices in reaction to the situation. One example is that they have proposed closing the mental health institutes in Clarinda and in Mount Pleasant. Not only on the worker side is this problematic as they plan to close two of the larger (union) employers in these communities, just as with other short sided decisions like closing the Iowa Juvenile Home they don’t seem to have a workable plan as to what to do with the residents of the facilities.

Another example of bad budgeting is the Governor and his party proposing to seriously short change our education system, proposing a 1.25% increase in funding next year followed by a 2.45% increase the second year. These proposals fall far short of the 6% recommended by our friends at the Iowa State Education Association and lower than the Iowa Senate’s plan that includes a 4% increase.

There has been positive movement in the House Labor committee by holding several sub-committee hearings on the issue of payment to employees with pay cards (HSB94). More and more Iowans are being paid on a card of some kind, sometimes without knowing what charges the cards have when trying to use the money they earned. Is this bankers and employers working together to rip off workers? No matter what anyone’s motives are, this has led to a unique form of wage theft that needs to stop, and rules need to be in place so workers and employers both know what expectations the state has. There are many issues that need addressed about these cards because currently this form of wage payment is not addressed in the Iowa Code.

The fight for a livable wage took a bad turn this week, with Senate Democrats signaling they would settle for a much lower minimum wage than the $10.10 we and many other of our partners have advocated for. SSB1151 would only raise the minimum wage to $8.75 by 2016, which is still not enough for a family to live on. We should do better as a state, and Iowa Senate Democrats should be leaders on this issue.

Contact your state Representatives and Senators and let them know that working families need a higher minimum wage than $8.75, and that we need a budget that looks out for all Iowans – not just corporate interests.

If you don’t know them or how to contact them, you can find that here:

GOP: “Have We Got A Plan For You!”

Good luck with that!

Good luck with that!

Silly us! And we thought the Republicans had no plan.  They have now come up with a “plan” that is getting some attention in the media, but don’t hold your breath. It is the same old plan that they’ve always had and that is to take back (repeal) the affordable health care benefits won by millions of people through President Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordability Act and to replace it with… wait for it…nothing.

According to the New York Times, Republicans said their plan would “rebut criticism from Democrats who say the Republicans have no ideas on health care.”  Because of course that is their true priority – to make it look like they have a plan where there is none.  Sorry GOP, but we already knew about your plan to take back health insurance from the millions who are now covered because of the ACA.  This is just more of the same.

Will the media coverage point this out or let them have a pass and call this a health care plan?  That remains to be seen, but it appears that their “plan” is nothing more than their continued efforts to undo everything President Obama has accomplished, while doing damage control for their continuing unconscionable behavior and their lack of ideas.

Here is what the GOP plan would do among other things according to the NYT:

– halt the expansion of Medicaid and scale back subsidies for middle-income people to buy private insurance.

– reduce federal requirements of insurance policies. States would be allowed to specify the “essential health benefits” that must be provided by insurance.  In the GOP plan, insurance policies would no longer be required to cover maternity care.

– reinstate the pre-existing condition problem applying the ACA rule that says “no one can be denied health insurance due to a pre-existing condition” only to people who have had continuous insurance coverage. For people who are uninsured, the Republican plan envisions “a one-time open enrollment.”

– states could opt out of the provision allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ health care plan until age 26.

(click here to read more)

Jason Easely at Politicsusa also has harsh words for the GOP plan.

“The Republicans have introduced a health care plan that doesn’t contain any health care. At the very bottom of the list of what the bill does, you will see that the legislation will provide tax credits for people to buy health care. The problem for tens of millions of Americans will be that they will first have to buy the policy in order to qualify for the tax credit. If a person or family can’t afford the policy, they won’t have insurance.

It also does not contain any mechanism for transferring people who are currently enrolled in health care exchanges to new subsidized coverage. Instead of expanding Medicaid, the Republican plan caps funding. This means that all of the people who have gotten health care through the Medicaid will be thrown off of their insurance.

These are the same old ideas that Republicans have been trying to dress up as health care reform for decades. The Republican plan will drive up health care costs, and throw millions of people off of their current coverage. It will allow insurance companies to discriminate and price gouge. It will drive up the cost of prescription drugs for seniors. The Republican plan would also toss 3 million children off of their parents’ health insurance.

 “Repeal and replace” is another GOP empty slogan that may have (arguably) worked well enough in the mid-terms in certain races.  We can only hope Republican-voting Americans will soon snap out of the fog they are in regarding the Republican party’s true nature and the path that they are leading us down.