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Woah! What A Week!

it's a new day

it’s a new day

‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.’ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Just some quick comments on quite a historical week:

There’s A New Flag In Town
For those who feel that the state should fly the flag that promotes their side in a controversy, I have to wonder if they would approve of a rainbow flag being flown on state grounds in a silent approval of marriage equality?

No Strategy, Just Destroy
Is the Republican Party only about ATTACK, DESTROY, PLUNDER? That seems to be their strategy since FDR but it has really come to a head during the Obama Administration. Think about their strategy concerning Social Security since its passage. Think of their strategy since Medicare. Think of their strategy since the ACA. The strategy since the ACA is so ludicrous that no one could ever had predicted such a reaction. Wasting huge amounts of time and money over and over taking useless votes in the House while real problems fester into huge problems. Willing to destroy the health care system in order to destroy the ACA. Crazy

Vander Plaats:
When I heard the SCOTUS decision on marriage equality my first thought turned to Bob Vander Plaats. Couldn’t help but think that the hate that he carries within him must be eating him alive right now. No doubt he is invoking Jesus’ teachings against homosexuality in his conversations today. But Jesus never said a thing about homosexuality. Jesus told us to love one another. That is the real Jesus. That is the one to study. Vander Plaats you may want to read your bible.

It continues to amaze me that so many citizens feel that the state should be flying a flag of treason on government grounds. Government grounds are owned by all people and as such should display only symbols that have been approved by all. Remember also that this flag is not only a flag of treason, in its current incarnation it is a flag of internal rebellion against the national government being promoted by the individual states. Amazing this could go on so long. Thanks in large measure to gutless politicians and the role of money in our political system.

Now, Democrats, Run On Health Care
The SCOTUS did Democrats a huge favor Thursday. The last strange challenge to the ACA was brushed away and the ACA is left with a solid base. Poll after poll shows that Americans want to have access to health care by a wide margin. Democrats ran away from the ACA in the last election and got their asses handed to them. Each and every Democrat needs to stand up for the ACA and promise to improve and expand it. They also need to challenge their opponents to spell out what “repeal and replace” really means. They are nothing but empty rhetoric.

Has The Message Sunk In? Quit The Damned Discrimination.
In the last couple of years the country has been in various stages of outrage over the inequalities that the Powers That Be try to maintain. From the war against black people in urban environments to the war on women being battered and discriminated against in employment to the war on equal treatment before the law for gays. Time and again we have seen citizens stand up and say in one voice “NO MORE!” Slowly things are changing. With the eyes of the internet seemingly watching everything and exposing lies and corruption throughout our system maybe we are headed ever so slowly to government FOR the people. But the people must grab the opportunity to work and vote.

Internet Neutrality:
As noted by the previous paragraph, one of the very instrumental keys to continuing to expose the lies and corruption is a neutral internet. Now can you understand why the right wing, especially the likes of the Koch brothers and the corporate media is so interested in controlling the internet. They have controlled all the other information media in this country for a long time. Doesn’t take a lot of research to find that the US has one of the worst informed publics in the world. We can’t get good information from TV, radio (even the vaunted NPR), magazines or newspapers. If they controlled the internet they would have a monopoly on information.

Nixon’s Southern Strategy.
45 years later the ugly outcome of Nixon’s Southern Strategy is coming home to roost. Promising to turn a blind eye to discrimination in the South for the delivery of votes, the Southern Strategy turned the Republicans into a viable party once more in the US. Now they are caught in a trap of whether to continue their support of the power structure in the South and alienate voters elsewhere in the country or abandon the South for votes elsewhere. This was manifested last week when Republican presidential candidates tried to claim they were on both sides of the confederate flag issue. Jeb! Bush was the most hilarious by far.

Can We Expect Massive Divorces On The Right Now?
They have been predicting that is what would happen. Call me a skeptic, but I won’t believe it until I see it. The 20 or so Republican presidential candidates should take the lead in this one.

Obama Legacy Caving Into Corporations?
Looks like the TPP, TTIP and TISA – the three trade deals that look like the monster that could kill America – are all but written into the law books. One of the real imponderables of the Obama years. Especially considering the lessons that all the previous similar trade deals have taught us.

Dutch Court Tells Government: Cut Pollution
In a case in the Netherlands last week, a Dutch court ordered the government to cut pollution by 25% in five years. The biggest question coming out of this is whether courts will become the battle ground on climate change around the world?

Married Today, Fired Tomorrow
Heard on the radio Friday after the marriage equality ruling came down: “ Remember that gay folks can get married anywhere in the US now, but when they go back to work on Monday morning they can legally be fired for being gay in most states.” There is work to be done yet, folks.

A Sign Of Hope At West Des Moines Dowling

Student rally at West Des Moines Dowling. (Photo courtesy of Iowa Public Radio)

Student rally at West Des Moines Dowling. (Photo courtesy of Iowa Public Radio)

The proverbial uprising in Indiana and Arkansas against legalizing discrimination based on a class of citizens last week was somewhat heartwarming. It has been amazing what Americans have let pass from our representatives both at a state and national level since Ronald Reagan moved into the White House and put up the For Sale sign.

After 34 years, though the American people stood up and howled en masse against laws that made a specific class of people second class citizens. These were a new version of the Jim Crow laws that were used to oppress blacks in the aftermath of the Civil War. Getting rid of the original Jim Crow laws was a monumental effort. Thousands died from the laws or in fighting them. Martin Luther King stated that “The arc of a moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Once it arrives at justice, most Americans do not want it to rebound in any way.

So as Indiana and Arkansas tried to reimpose a form of legalized discrimination, many Americans to their credit stood up and said no.This battle is not done. Many more states are planning to try to implement legalized discrimination against their gay citizenry, but hopefully they are forewarned that there will be consequences. Most of these laws are meant to pacify a crazy religious right wing that continues to ignore Jesus teachings of loving your fellow man and substitute a belief that it is OK to hate those who are not like them.

Which brings us to a little demonstration in West Des Moines last Wednesday. Some 100+ students walked out of class and staged a protest in a show of support for a substitute teacher who was denied full time employment because he was openly gay. While the leader of the demonstration, sophomore Grace Mumm admitted that the protest would not get the teacher a job, she did say it would “Let the community know the decisions of our school leaders and our diocesan leaders do not directly reflect what the students believe,”

Standing up to the powers that be, especially by high school students in a private school is a gutsy move. No doubt it will also be an experience where those participating will learn a lot of lessons that they won’t learn in a classroom. First they will learn that, yes indeed you can speak your mind in America. Quickly following that will come the corollary to speaking your mind. That when you do all sorts of nay-sayers and self appointed guardians of societal norms (how they interpret them) will be crawling out of the woodwork. Many may be family and friends. Speech may be free but it is not without consequences.

But the big lesson is that there are things in life worth standing up for. One of them is the treatment of any citizen as a second class citizen.

Another much deeper lesson will be that the group they have been told is the arbiter of morality they should turn to in actuality condones even endorses discrimination. So they get a major lesson in hypocrisy. While claiming to be a church founded by Jesus following Jesus teachings is often inconvenient. May I humbly suggest that Dowling take some time to fully understand their stated morality positions and then cull all teachers who violate any of those who violate any of their precepts. Fire those who have used birth control in any form, those who marry outside the church, those who support the death penalty and so on.

My hat’s off to you Ms. Mumm and those who joined you. You give me hope.

It’s Official: Republicans Totally Bankrupt On Ideas

Citizens discover Tea Party is smoke and mirrors

Citizens discover Tea Party is smoke and mirrors

The fiasco in Indiana exposes the Republican Tea Party for what it has become – a party totally devoid of any ideas on issues, totally indifferent to the citizens of this country and totally committed to only one goal – controlling the government so they can hand our tax money to their rich donors. Way to go, baggers. Your greed forced you to pass laws condoning what Americans hate most – unequal treatment sanctioned by law.

What used to be the normal process of government addressing problems has been totally distorted by a Tea Party that answers only to their donors, but still must get elected in order to put in the oligarchy they desire.

So instead of perceiving problems or having citizens ask for action on problems, today’s Tea Party kowtows to the whims of the rich by continually cutting their taxes and making them exempt from costs of damage they do to the commons, such as the environment and infrastructure. These whims are handed to Tea Party legislators through lobbying groups like ALEC with the legislation that the rich want passed to achieve their goals. Thus we see Iowa’s legislature unable to fund schools while at the same time talking about more big tax cuts with the wealthy getting the lion’s share of the cuts.

The other place the Tea Party gets its ideas for legislation is the religious far right. These are groups that don’t care if people have food to eat or a roof over their heads, but are all about saving their souls based on the gods they believe in. These folks can deliver tons of votes of people fearful of going to hell. Since these religious right wingers vote in every election and usually vote for the candidate furthest right socially, the Tea Party must cater to their whims with insane legislation that keeps these groups voting and voting for Tea baggers almost exclusively.

With gerrymandered districts and restriction on who can vote this strategy has led to the majority of state legislatures and governorships in the hands of the Tea Party. With those majorities we see “the laboratories of democracy” as states have been dubbed experimenting with cutting revenues far below that which a state needs in order to function (Kansas is the prime example), busting unions as fats as they can (see Wisconsin) and of course continually trying to impose their religious concepts as law. In that last one you surely recognize the attempts by Indiana and Arkansas (and Georgia and North Carolina also) to impose legalized discrimination based on sexual orientation.

But let us not forget the many attempts that have been made in various state capitals to impose religious training in public schools, to make creationism the equal of science in schools and many other attempts to make religious concepts part of public policy. Chief Justice Roy Moore in Alabama tries to impose his religious views on marriage in defiance of federal court decision. Just last week in Arizona, a legislator contemplated introducing a bill that would make church attendance on Sunday mandatory in her state.

Now, here in Iowa we have had the luxury of looking at these happenings as being something that happens somewhere else. Well, it would be happening here also were it not for the slim one vote Democratic majority in the Iowa senate. Terry Branstad is no longer a practical moderate. He finally sold what little was left of his soul for a return to Terrace Hill. He was always very right wing, but somewhat practical. He threw out that practical part for the money from the wealthy and the votes from the religious. He was a founding member of ALEC and still looks to make a mark for them. He is virulently anti-union and no longer even tries to cover it up. He never misses a chance to show his religiosity these days. Who can forget about a year ago when he flaunted his disdain for the separation of church and state with a big ceremony declaring a day of prayer in Iowa. He then made a big show of at one of the ceremonies later in the summer.

In the Iowa legislature, the Tea Party pretty much marches in lock-step. They would love to be passing some of those give aways to the wealthy and are successful in at least giving some of our treasury away. They would also love to join their tea Party brethren across the country in making discrimination legal and making their Christian dogma into law. Save for one seat in the senate we would easily be an Indiana or a Wisconsin with Terry Branstad happily signing away the rights of the minorities with a big smile. And if he should no longer be in office, you can bet Kim Reynolds would love to be a Tea Party hero.

So don’t be smug Iowans. We are only a heartbeat away from being just another state run by the rich, for the rich with a helping of region on the side.

So if Tea Party legislatures were actually governing and solving problems that actually exist in the lives of common citizens what problems would they be addressing? Here is a short list. Note that these ARE problems that Democrats try to confront at all levels, but are being shut out by the legislative process:
– feeding the family
– decent housing
– working a full time job for a living wage
– good education for their children in an increasingly competitive world
– the cost of higher education and usurious lending rates to students
– health care for all citizens
– access to a neutral internet
– fixing and updating our infrastructure

This is just a start. Overarching all of these is climate change. I have heard there is a movement among millennials to vote only for candidates who will address climate change. Good for them!

President Obama’s Selma 50th Anniversary Speech

Some say this is President Obama’s most powerful speech.  Video is of the full speech. Full text is below. obamas_selma_50th_anniversary_speech_full_text

Below, the full remarks of President Barack Obama as he speaks from the Edmund Pettus Bridge marking the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery Marches.

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Selma, Alabama
March 7, 2015

As Prepared for Delivery —

It is a rare honor in this life to follow one of your heroes. And John Lewis is one of my heroes.

Now, I have to imagine that when a younger John Lewis woke up that morning fifty years ago and made his way to Brown Chapel, heroics were not on his mind. A day like this was not on his mind. Young folks with bedrolls and backpacks were milling about. Veterans of the movement trained newcomers in the tactics of non-violence; the right way to protect yourself when attacked. A doctor described what tear gas does to the body, while marchers scribbled down instructions for contacting their loved ones. The air was thick with doubt, anticipation, and fear. They comforted themselves with the final verse of the final hymn they sung:

No matter what may be the test, God will take care of you;

Lean, weary one, upon His breast, God will take care of you.

Then, his knapsack stocked with an apple, a toothbrush, a book on government – all you need for a night behind bars – John Lewis led them out of the church on a mission to change America.

President Bush and Mrs. Bush, Governor Bentley, Members of Congress, Mayor Evans, Reverend Strong, friends and fellow Americans:

There are places, and moments in America where this nation’s destiny has been decided. Many are sites of war – Concord and Lexington, Appomattox and Gettysburg. Others are sites that symbolize the daring of America’s character – Independence Hall and Seneca Falls, Kitty Hawk and Cape Canaveral.

Selma is such a place.

In one afternoon fifty years ago, so much of our turbulent history – the stain of slavery and anguish of civil war; the yoke of segregation and tyranny of Jim Crow; the death of four little girls in Birmingham, and the dream of a Baptist preacher – met on this bridge.

It was not a clash of armies, but a clash of wills; a contest to determine the meaning of America.

And because of men and women like John Lewis, Joseph Lowery, Hosea Williams, Amelia Boynton, Diane Nash, Ralph Abernathy, C.T. Vivian, Andrew Young, Fred Shuttlesworth, Dr. King, and so many more, the idea of a just America, a fair America, an inclusive America, a generous America – that idea ultimately triumphed.

As is true across the landscape of American history, we cannot examine this moment in isolation. The march on Selma was part of a broader campaign that spanned generations; the leaders that day part of a long line of heroes.

We gather here to celebrate them. We gather here to honor the courage of ordinary Americans willing to endure billy clubs and the chastening rod; tear gas and the trampling hoof; men and women who despite the gush of blood and splintered bone would stay true to their North Star and keep marching toward justice.

They did as Scripture instructed: “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” And in the days to come, they went back again and again. When the trumpet call sounded for more to join, the people came – black and white, young and old, Christian and Jew, waving the American flag and singing the same anthems full of faith and hope. A white newsman, Bill Plante, who covered the marches then and who is with us here today, quipped that the growing number of white people lowered the quality of the singing. To those who marched, though, those old gospel songs must have never sounded so sweet.

In time, their chorus would reach President Johnson. And he would send them protection, echoing their call for the nation and the world to hear:

“We shall overcome.”

What enormous faith these men and women had. Faith in God – but also faith in America.

The Americans who crossed this bridge were not physically imposing. But they gave courage to millions. They held no elected office. But they led a nation. They marched as Americans who had endured hundreds of years of brutal violence, and countless daily indignities – but they didn’t seek special treatment, just the equal treatment promised to them almost a century before.

What they did here will reverberate through the ages. Not because the change they won was preordained; not because their victory was complete; but because they proved that nonviolent change is possible; that love and hope can conquer hate.

As we commemorate their achievement, we are well-served to remember that at the time of the marches, many in power condemned rather than praised them. Back then, they were called Communists, half-breeds, outside agitators, sexual and moral degenerates, and worse – everything but the name their parents gave them. Their faith was questioned. Their lives were threatened. Their patriotism was challenged.

And yet, what could be more American than what happened in this place?

What could more profoundly vindicate the idea of America than plain and humble people – the unsung, the downtrodden, the dreamers not of high station, not born to wealth or privilege, not of one religious tradition but many – coming together to shape their country’s course?

What greater expression of faith in the American experiment than this; what greater form of patriotism is there; than the belief that America is not yet finished, that we are strong enough to be self-critical, that each successive generation can look upon our imperfections and decide that it is in our power to remake this nation to more closely align with our highest ideals?

That’s why Selma is not some outlier in the American experience. That’s why it’s not a museum or static monument to behold from a distance. It is instead the manifestation of a creed written into our founding documents:

“We the People…in order to form a more perfect union.”

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

These are not just words. They are a living thing, a call to action, a roadmap for citizenship and an insistence in the capacity of free men and women to shape our own destiny. For founders like Franklin and Jefferson, for leaders like Lincoln and FDR, the success of our experiment in self-government rested on engaging all our citizens in this work. That’s what we celebrate here in Selma. That’s what this movement was all about, one leg in our long journey toward freedom.

The American instinct that led these young men and women to pick up the torch and cross this bridge is the same instinct that moved patriots to choose revolution over tyranny. It’s the same instinct that drew immigrants from across oceans and the Rio Grande; the same instinct that led women to reach for the ballot and workers to organize against an unjust status quo; the same instinct that led us to plant a flag at Iwo Jima and on the surface of the Moon.

It’s the idea held by generations of citizens who believed that America is a constant work in progress; who believed that loving this country requires more than singing its praises or avoiding uncomfortable truths. It requires the occasional disruption, the willingness to speak out for what’s right and shake up the status quo.

That’s what makes us unique, and cements our reputation as a beacon of opportunity. Young people behind the Iron Curtain would see Selma and eventually tear down a wall. Young people in Soweto would hear Bobby Kennedy talk about ripples of hope and eventually banish the scourge of apartheid. Young people in Burma went to prison rather than submit to military rule. From the streets of Tunis to the Maidan in Ukraine, this generation of young people can draw strength from this place, where the powerless could change the world’s greatest superpower, and push their leaders to expand the boundaries of freedom.

They saw that idea made real in Selma, Alabama. They saw it made real in America.

Because of campaigns like this, a Voting Rights Act was passed. Political, economic, and social barriers came down, and the change these men and women wrought is visible here today in the presence of African-Americans who run boardrooms, who sit on the bench, who serve in elected office from small towns to big cities; from the Congressional Black Caucus to the Oval Office.

Because of what they did, the doors of opportunity swung open not just for African-Americans, but for every American. Women marched through those doors. Latinos marched through those doors. Asian-Americans, gay Americans, and Americans with disabilities came through those doors. Their endeavors gave the entire South the chance to rise again, not by reasserting the past, but by transcending the past.

What a glorious thing, Dr. King might say.

What a solemn debt we owe.

Which leads us to ask, just how might we repay that debt?

First and foremost, we have to recognize that one day’s commemoration, no matter how special, is not enough. If Selma taught us anything, it’s that our work is never done – the American experiment in self-government gives work and purpose to each generation.

Selma teaches us, too, that action requires that we shed our cynicism. For when it comes to the pursuit of justice, we can afford neither complacency nor despair.

Just this week, I was asked whether I thought the Department of Justice’s Ferguson report shows that, with respect to race, little has changed in this country. I understand the question, for the report’s narrative was woefully familiar. It evoked the kind of abuse and disregard for citizens that spawned the Civil Rights Movement. But I rejected the notion that nothing’s changed. What happened in Ferguson may not be unique, but it’s no longer endemic, or sanctioned by law and custom; and before the Civil Rights Movement, it most surely was.

We do a disservice to the cause of justice by intimating that bias and discrimination are immutable, or that racial division is inherent to America. If you think nothing’s changed in the past fifty years, ask somebody who lived through the Selma or Chicago or L.A. of the Fifties. Ask the female CEO who once might have been assigned to the secretarial pool if nothing’s changed. Ask your gay friend if it’s easier to be out and proud in America now than it was thirty years ago. To deny this progress – our progress – would be to rob us of our own agency; our responsibility to do what we can to make America better.

Of course, a more common mistake is to suggest that racism is banished, that the work that drew men and women to Selma is complete, and that whatever racial tensions remain are a consequence of those seeking to play the “race card” for their own purposes. We don’t need the Ferguson report to know that’s not true. We just need to open our eyes, and ears, and hearts, to know that this nation’s racial history still casts its long shadow upon us. We know the march is not yet over, the race is not yet won, and that reaching that blessed destination where we are judged by the content of our character – requires admitting as much.

“We are capable of bearing a great burden,” James Baldwin wrote, “once we discover that the burden is reality and arrive where reality is.”

This is work for all Americans, and not just some. Not just whites. Not just blacks. If we want to honor the courage of those who marched that day, then all of us are called to possess their moral imagination. All of us will need to feel, as they did, the fierce urgency of now. All of us need to recognize, as they did, that change depends on our actions, our attitudes, the things we teach our children. And if we make such effort, no matter how hard it may seem, laws can be passed, and consciences can be stirred, and consensus can be built.

With such effort, we can make sure our criminal justice system serves all and not just some. Together, we can raise the level of mutual trust that policing is built on – the idea that police officers are members of the communities they risk their lives to protect, and citizens in Ferguson and New York and Cleveland just want the same thing young people here marched for – the protection of the law. Together, we can address unfair sentencing, and overcrowded prisons, and the stunted circumstances that rob too many boys of the chance to become men, and rob the nation of too many men who could be good dads, and workers, and neighbors.

With effort, we can roll back poverty and the roadblocks to opportunity. Americans don’t accept a free ride for anyone, nor do we believe in equality of outcomes. But we do expect equal opportunity, and if we really mean it, if we’re willing to sacrifice for it, then we can make sure every child gets an education suitable to this new century, one that expands imaginations and lifts their sights and gives them skills. We can make sure every person willing to work has the dignity of a job, and a fair wage, and a real voice, and sturdier rungs on that ladder into the middle class.

And with effort, we can protect the foundation stone of our democracy for which so many marched across this bridge – and that is the right to vote. Right now, in 2015, fifty years after Selma, there are laws across this country designed to make it harder for people to vote. As we speak, more of such laws are being proposed. Meanwhile, the Voting Rights Act, the culmination of so much blood and sweat and tears, the product of so much sacrifice in the face of wanton violence, stands weakened, its future subject to partisan rancor.

How can that be? The Voting Rights Act was one of the crowning achievements of our democracy, the result of Republican and Democratic effort. President Reagan signed its renewal when he was in office. President Bush signed its renewal when he was in office. One hundred Members of Congress have come here today to honor people who were willing to die for the right it protects. If we want to honor this day, let these hundred go back to Washington, and gather four hundred more, and together, pledge to make it their mission to restore the law this year.

Of course, our democracy is not the task of Congress alone, or the courts alone, or the President alone. If every new voter suppression law was struck down today, we’d still have one of the lowest voting rates among free peoples. Fifty years ago, registering to vote here in Selma and much of the South meant guessing the number of jellybeans in a jar or bubbles on a bar of soap. It meant risking your dignity, and sometimes, your life. What is our excuse today for not voting? How do we so casually discard the right for which so many fought? How do we so fully give away our power, our voice, in shaping America’s future?

Fellow marchers, so much has changed in fifty years. We’ve endured war, and fashioned peace. We’ve seen technological wonders that touch every aspect of our lives, and take for granted convenience our parents might scarcely imagine. But what has not changed is the imperative of citizenship, that willingness of a 26 year-old deacon, or a Unitarian minister, or a young mother of five, to decide they loved this country so much that they’d risk everything to realize its promise.

That’s what it means to love America. That’s what it means to believe in America. That’s what it means when we say America is exceptional.

For we were born of change. We broke the old aristocracies, declaring ourselves entitled not by bloodline, but endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights. We secure our rights and responsibilities through a system of self-government, of and by and for the people. That’s why we argue and fight with so much passion and conviction, because we know our efforts matter. We know America is what we make of it.

We are Lewis and Clark and Sacajawea – pioneers who braved the unfamiliar, followed by a stampede of farmers and miners, entrepreneurs and hucksters. That’s our spirit.

We are Sojourner Truth and Fannie Lou Hamer, women who could do as much as any man and then some; and we’re Susan B. Anthony, who shook the system until the law reflected that truth. That’s our character.

We’re the immigrants who stowed away on ships to reach these shores, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free – Holocaust survivors, Soviet defectors, the Lost Boys of Sudan. We are the hopeful strivers who cross the Rio Grande because they want their kids to know a better life. That’s how we came to be.

We’re the slaves who built the White House and the economy of the South. We’re the ranch hands and cowboys who opened the West, and countless laborers who laid rail, and raised skyscrapers, and organized for workers’ rights.

We’re the fresh-faced GIs who fought to liberate a continent, and we’re the Tuskeegee Airmen, Navajo code-talkers, and Japanese-Americans who fought for this country even as their own liberty had been denied. We’re the firefighters who rushed into those buildings on 9/11, and the volunteers who signed up to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq.

We are the gay Americans whose blood ran on the streets of San Francisco and New York, just as blood ran down this bridge.

We are storytellers, writers, poets, and artists who abhor unfairness, and despise hypocrisy, and give voice to the voiceless, and tell truths that need to be told.

We are the inventors of gospel and jazz and the blues, bluegrass and country, hip-hop and rock and roll, our very own sounds with all the sweet sorrow and reckless joy of freedom.

We are Jackie Robinson, enduring scorn and spiked cleats and pitches coming straight to his head, and stealing home in the World Series anyway.

We are the people Langston Hughes wrote of, who “build our temples for tomorrow, strong as we know how.”

We are the people Emerson wrote of, “who for truth and honor’s sake stand fast and suffer long;” who are “never tired, so long as we can see far enough.”

That’s what America is. Not stock photos or airbrushed history or feeble attempts to define some of us as more American as others. We respect the past, but we don’t pine for it. We don’t fear the future; we grab for it. America is not some fragile thing; we are large, in the words of Whitman, containing multitudes. We are boisterous and diverse and full of energy, perpetually young in spirit. That’s why someone like John Lewis at the ripe age of 25 could lead a mighty march.

And that’s what the young people here today and listening all across the country must take away from this day. You are America. Unconstrained by habits and convention. Unencumbered by what is, and ready to seize what ought to be. For everywhere in this country, there are first steps to be taken, and new ground to cover, and bridges to be crossed. And it is you, the young and fearless at heart, the most diverse and educated generation in our history, who the nation is waiting to follow.

Because Selma shows us that America is not the project of any one person.

Because the single most powerful word in our democracy is the word “We.” We The People. We Shall Overcome. Yes We Can. It is owned by no one. It belongs to everyone. Oh, what a glorious task we are given, to continually try to improve this great nation of ours.

Fifty years from Bloody Sunday, our march is not yet finished. But we are getting closer. Two hundred and thirty-nine years after this nation’s founding, our union is not yet perfect. But we are getting closer. Our job’s easier because somebody already got us through that first mile. Somebody already got us over that bridge. When it feels the road’s too hard, when the torch we’ve been passed feels too heavy, we will remember these early travelers, and draw strength from their example, and hold firmly the words of the prophet Isaiah:

“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not be faint.”

We honor those who walked so we could run. We must run so our children soar. And we will not grow weary. For we believe in the power of an awesome God, and we believe in this country’s sacred promise.

May He bless those warriors of justice no longer with us, and bless the United States of America.

Iowa City Pride Parade Today

one iowa
Saturday, June 21, join us in the Pedestrian Mall in downtown Iowa City and check out all the cool stuff we have to offer. Buttons, stickers, Equality T-shirts and more! You won’t want to miss it.

Here are the details:

iowa city pride

Cable Merger And The Commons

hope for the internetA couple of weeks ago a federal court said that the FCC had dropped the ball on net neutrality, thus those who own the gateway to the internet could do what they wish to do in controlling access. Immediately the alarm bells started ringing around the country. In a world where the news media is owned by increasingly right wing companies, the internet has acted much like the printing press in the backroom did during our revolution. No matter what the British tried to do they could not stop the flow of information because every time they took out a printing press another popped up to take its place.

Thus since its inception the internet has acted as a conduit for information not approved by the powers that be whether they be business interests or government officials. This is do in the most part to the fact that until this recent ruling the internet was operated under the concept of ‘neutrality.’ That is that all content was equally accessible no matter what it was.

We saw what that availability can do last Saturday as 100,000 North Carolinians showed up at the state capitol to join in a “moral Monday” protest against the state government despite a near total blackout from the main stream media which did not approve of this protest. Information passed among potential protestors turned this into a major event. However, it was not major enough for the main stream to even do stories on on the protest. Much like the protests around the world when Bushco invaded Iraq, the media pretended it didn’t happen. But as happened with the Iraq protests, stories of the protest in Raleigh were soon filling in the gigantic holes left by the media.

The immediate question that should be raised in every citizens mind is whether any company or companies should be able to control access to the internet either by individuals or groups. Should access be premised on some set of beliefs or more likely how much money a person has? Businesses and civil liberties groups in the US decry controls on the internet in totalitarian states like China or Burma. Yet we are about to let business perform the same function in the US that we condemn from governments in other countries.

Now as if to stick their proverbial thumb in our eyes, cable companies Comcast and Time-Warner have declared their intention to wed. Part of what they want as a wedding present is controlling access to the internet for about half of America. Another gift on their wish list is to control your access to their approved news, thus the number of news sources will go down one as NBC and CNN will come under the same umbrella. As an aside, this does prove that what Mitt Romney said at the Iowa State Fair is true. “Corporations are people, my friends.” Yep and they marry and register for gifts.

Should the internet be treated as a commonly held utility with availability to all as it is in most western countries? The US is way behind the rest of the world in accessibility and speed. In countries like Japan and France internet speeds are a hundred times faster and the costs often less than half what we pay. The biggest reason that their internet is held in common is so that businesses can have access to the information super highway.

Having access to a robust and open information super highway is every bit as important to businesses as open highways and open ports are.Putting control of both access and content on the internet by corporations seems to be a major backward step. Backward steps seem to be the way to go in the US these days as more and more people reject science and accept religion. While the US looks to put new brakes on what will be the major tool of business in the future, competitors around the world are looking to speed up and open up. Notice that I am not even going to argue the civil liberties aspects of the internet since the damage this direction can do to business should be scary enough to get Americans lining up to say “don’t turn the internet over to corporations!”

And the internet situation should makes us want to pause and question what other aspects of life should be held by the country as something which the American people hold in common. Is the health care system something which should include all Americans and thus be held in common? I would argue so just from the aspect of controlling disease. We will continue to have more exotic diseases that will be near impossible to control if a quarter of our populace is unable to access the health care system.

Should education continue to be a system that requires some level of attainment for all our citizens or should it be a system open to those who can afford to send their children to schools?

What about the very basics of life – should the air be clean enough to breathe and the water clean enough to drink? What about basic heat and electricity? If a person has little money, should they be cut off from these basics.

Was this country founded to serve the rich? Or was it founded for our mutual help and defense?

Best Wishes From Martin Luther King, Jr.

mlk book strive toward freedomThis is a remarkable story of a young college student’s personal encounter with Martin Luther King, Jr. at Iowa State Teachers College (now UNI) in Cedar Falls during the fall of 1958.   Posted here with permission.

by Harold H. Hensel

Many of my family and friends have heard this story many times before but there are new friends on Facebook that haven’t heard it. Plus, I like remembering it. So here goes.

I was urged by my freshman humanities teacher, Dr. Lang, to go to the convocation. I didn’t know what a convocation was but I went anyway. It was a speech at the Commons. About 600 students were there. I thought it was a powerful speech. The speaker said he would be at the book store afterwards. I didn’t think I would get close but I went anyway.

There were three other students there and they left. So there I was with the speaker by myself. I bought his book. He had a PHD and he started asking me questions! He wanted to know why the audience did not respond to his message. We talked about it for about twenty minutes.

I had been viciously hazed during my freshman and sophomore year of high school by the school bully and his buddies. One of them came at me with a baseball bat one time and fully intended to hit me with it. I grabbed the bat as it came down and stepped aside. The bully fell to the ground and I had the bat raised in my hand. All I had to do was bring it down and the bully would have been seriously injured. I thought it was not worth getting myself in trouble and decided against it.

I suggested that the audience in Iowa had not been discriminated against and there was a difference between understanding discrimination intellectually and emotionally. The speaker said that must be it. He signed my book, Martin L King, Jr .

When I left, I considered myself a member of the civil rights movement. I got away from the bullies when they left school. I couldn’t imagine not being able to get away from the sting of discrimination because of my skin color. And advocating non-violence was really courageous.

If Dr. King was alive today and you met him, I am sure he would wish you “Best Wishes” as well.

mlk best wishes

Quad City Fed Notes Civil Rights March Anniversary

March_on_Washington_1963_smallA note from the Quad City Federation of Labor:

Brothers and Sisters,

On Wednesday, Aug. 28, communities across the country, and indeed across the world, will be celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights March on Washington D.C.

The historic march has been called  many names over the years, but the original name was the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom,” and  these were the original demands of the marchers.

-Meaningful Civil Rights Laws

-Massive Federal Works Program

-Full and Fair Employment

-Decent Housing

-The Right to Vote

-Adequate Integrated Education

The nature of the demands that the marchers had then are very similar to the list of values and issues that the Labor Movement and our coalition partners continue to fight for today.

Locally, Organizing for Action, led by Coalition member Kevin Perkins, is putting together an event to commemorate Dr. King’s legacy, and reaffirm our commitment to finishing the work that he and the Civil Right’s movement set out to accomplish 50 years ago. Numerous Community Coalition partners have placed their name on this event too in solidarity with the spirit of the anniversary.

Please download and distribute the attached flyer far and wide. Upload the attached JPEG photo to your Facebook and other social media pages.

How many members can your local contribute to this historic anniversary? Come on, give us everything you got– and don’t forget to showcase your local’s pride by wearing your union T-shirt and other gear.

Who: Quad Cities Community

What: Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington and MLK’s “I Have A Dream” speech

Where: Lafayette Park (4th St and Gaines) Davenport, IA

Time: 2:30pm

Flyer: See attached

In Solidarity,

Joshua Schipp

Voting Rights and the March on Washington

(Editor’s Note: Ari Berman is a friend of Blog for Iowa, and he passed along this note which may be of interest to readers).

Dear Friends,

I wanted to pass on a few timely new stories that I thought would be of interest:

The legal challenges to North Carolina’s sweeping new voting restrictions

The key factors that will decide the fate of voting rights in NC and nationally

And a new story in the latest issue of The Nation about the importance of the upcoming 50th anniversary of the March on Washington on contemporary civil rights organizing. As I write in the new piece, “so many of the issues that gave rise to the March on Washington fifty years ago remain unfulfilled or under siege today.”

Thanks for reading


DoD Announces Same-Sex Spouse Benefits

Chuck Hagel

Chuck Hagel

Aug. 14, 2013

DOD Announces Same-Sex Spouse Benefits

WASHINGTON, D.C.– Today, the Department of Defense announced its plan to extend benefits to same-sex spouses of uniformed service members and Department of Defense civilian employees.

After a review of the department’s benefit policies following the Supreme Court’s ruling that Section Three of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional, and in consultation with the Department of Justice and other executive branch agencies, the Defense Department will make spousal and family benefits available no later than Sept. 3, 2013, regardless of sexual orientation, as long as service member-sponsors provide a valid marriage certificate.

The Department of Defense remains committed to ensuring that all men and women who serve in the U.S. military, and their families, are treated fairly and equally as the law directs.

Entitlements such as TRICARE enrollment, basic allowance for housing (BAH) and family separation allowance are retroactive to the date of the Supreme Court’s decision.  Any claims to entitlements before that date will not be granted.  For those members married after June 26, 2013, entitlements begin at the date of marriage.

We recognize that same-sex military couples who are not stationed in a jurisdiction that permits same-sex marriage would have to travel to another jurisdiction to marry.  That is why the department will implement policies to allow military personnel in such a relationship non-chargeable leave for the purpose of traveling to a jurisdiction where such a marriage may occur.  This will provide accelerated access to the full range of benefits offered to married military couples throughout the department, and help level the playing field between opposite-sex and same-sex couples seeking to be married.

For civilian benefits administered government-wide to federal employees, the Department of Defense will follow the Office of Personnel Management and the Department of Labor’s guidance to ensure that the same benefits currently available to heterosexual spouses are also available to legally married same-sex spouses.

Read the implementation memo from Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel online as well as further guidance on extending benefits to same-sex spouses of military members from Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Jessica Wright.