Iowa in the News
The story about the termination of Special Agent in Charge Larry Hedlund of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation won’t be going away soon. Ryan Foley of the Associated Press picked up the story, which is garnering some national attention. Read Foley’s story here.
The governor’s speeding around Iowa typifies the kind of reckless behavior present in his administration. Maybe Hedlund’s termination, and the governor’s flagrant disregard for public safety shouldn’t be the poster child.
With Director of the Iowa Development Authority Debi Durham’s poor negotiation of the Orascom fertilizer plant deal, her failing to connect the dots between China’s desire for self-sufficiency in corn and soybean production and sales of Iowa commodities to China, and her recent joke about the governor’s speeding while on a European trade mission, perhaps she should have been the one terminated for her negative and disrespectful comments.
On that German Autobahn trip, Governor Branstad and Ms. Durham remind one of Tom and Daisy Buchanan, characters in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel “The Great Gatsby.” Fitzgerald wrote, “they were careless people, Tom and Daisy- they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money, or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”
Special Agent Hedlund appears to have been performing responsibly and his wrongful termination lawsuit will be in the news. Taxpayers will likely pay for the administration’s defense.
While it is the state’s right to fire their employees, voters should take the reckless ones to task at the polls in November 2014, beginning with Governor Branstad. He has made his mark on Iowa. Isn’t that enough?
We think probably not. Here is an excerpt of an article by Tom Philpott at MotherJones.com about China’s dead-hog scandal and how Iowa and the U.S. compare.
Consider Iowa, which houses around 18 million hogs, making it our most hog-intensive state. All of those hogs concentrated into a relatively small space generate unthinkable amounts of toxic manure. How much? Food & Water Watch weighs in:
• The nearly 733,000 hogs on factory farms in Plymouth County, Iowa, produce twice as much untreated manure as the sewage from the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area.
• The more than 857,000 hogs on factory farms in Hardin County, Iowa, produce three times as much untreated manure as the sewage from the greater Atlanta metro area.
• The more than 1 million hogs on factory farms in Sioux County, Iowa, produce as much untreated manure as the sewage from the Los Angeles and Atlanta metro areas combined.
And it’s not just hogs that are crammed into the state’s factory farms. According to FWW, Iowa’s vast confinement facilities also house 1.2 million beef cattle, 52.4 million egg-laying hens, 1 million broiler chickens, and 64,500 dairy cows. Altogether, this teeming horde annually churns out “as much untreated manure as the sewage from 471 million people—more than the entire US population.”
As you might imagine, keeping such titanic amounts of shit out of water is a near futile task.
The White House has released a report outlining what will happen state by state if the automatic across-the-board budget cuts are allowed to go into effect March 1st. Perhaps the most egregious of these cuts in Iowa, would be meals for seniors which would lose $220,000 in funding. While the GOP and billionaires continue to fight to avoid tax loopholes, they try to sell the idea that there is no money for meals for senior citizens. Children with disabilities, teachers, schools, child care, vaccines, environmental protections, work study jobs for college students, law enforcement and military cuts, are all on the chopping block in our state. All so the wealthiest 1% can continue to indulge in greed, thanks to their enablers, the GOP.
Here’s what will happen. Click here to contact your representatives in DC.
Impact of March 1st Cuts on Middle Class Families, Jobs and Economic Security
If sequestration were to take effect, some examples of the impacts on Iowa this year alone are:
Teachers and Schools:
Iowa will lose approximately $6.4 million in funding for primary and secondary education, putting around 90 teacher and aide jobs at risk. In addition about 7,000 fewer students would be served and approximately 50 fewer schools would receive funding.
Education for Children with Disabilities:
In addition, Iowa will lose approximately $5.8 million in funds for about 70 teachers, aides, and staff who help children with disabilities.
Around 2,370 fewer low income students in Iowa would receive aid to help them finance the costs of college and around 1,020 fewer students will get work-study jobs that help them pay for college.
Head Start and Early Head Start services would be eliminated for approximately 500 children in Iowa, reducing access to critical early education.
Protections for Clean Air and Clean Water:
Iowa would lose about $2.4 million in environmental funding to ensure clean water and air quality, as well as prevent pollution from pesticides and hazardous waste. In addition, Iowa could lose another $661,000 in grants for fish and wildlife protection.
In Iowa, approximately 2,000 civilian Department of Defense employees would be furloughed, reducing gross pay by around $7.4 million in total.
Army: Base operation funding would be cut by about $1.5 million in Iowa.
Air Force: Funding for Air Force operations in Iowa would be cut by about $0 million.
Law Enforcement and Public Safety Funds for Crime Prevention and Prosecution:
Iowa will lose about $135,000 in Justice Assistance Grants that support law enforcement, prosecution and courts, crime prevention and education, corrections and community corrections, drug treatment and enforcement, and crime victim and witness initiatives.
Job Search Assistance to Help those in Iowa find Employment and Training:
Iowa will lose about $376,000 in funding for job search assistance, referral, and placement, meaning around 12,680 fewer people will get the help and skills they need to find employment.
Up to 300 disadvantaged and vulnerable children could lose access to child care, which is also essential for working parents to hold down a job.
Vaccines for Children:
In Iowa around 1,320 fewer children will receive vaccines for diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, whooping cough, influenza, and Hepatitis B due to reduced funding for vaccinations of about $90,000.
Iowa will lose approximately $291,000 in funds to help upgrade its ability to respond to public health threats including infectious diseases, natural disasters, and biological, chemical, nuclear, and radiological events. In addition, Iowa will lose about $670,000 in grants to help prevent and treat substance abuse, resulting in around 1,100 fewer admissions to substance abuse programs. And the Iowa Department of Public Health will lose about $61,000 resulting in around 1,500 fewer HIV tests.
STOP Violence Against Women Program:
Iowa could lose up to $65,000 in funds that provide services to victims of domestic violence, resulting in up to 200 fewer victims being served.
Nutrition Assistance for Seniors:
Iowa would lose approximately $220,000 in funds that provide meals for seniors.
Unless Congress acts by March 1st , a series of automatic cuts—called the sequester—will take effect that threaten hundreds of thousands of middle class jobs, and cut vital services for children, seniors, people with mental illness and our men and women in uniform.
Already, the President has worked with Congress to reduce the deficit by more than $2.5 trillion, but there’s more to do. The President has put forward a balanced plan to not only avoid the harmful effects of the sequester but also to reduce the deficit by more than $4 trillion in total. The President’s plan meets Republicans more than halfway and includes twice as many spending cuts as it does tax revenue from the wealthy.
Unfortunately, many Republicans in Congress refuse to ask the wealthy to pay a little more by closing tax loopholes so that we can protect investments that are helping grow our economy and keep our country safe. By not asking the wealthy to pay a little more, Republicans are forcing our children, seniors, troops, military families and the entire middle class to bear the burden of deficit reduction. The President is determined to cut spending and reduce the deficit in a balanced way, but he won’t stick the middle class with the bill. The President is willing to compromise, but on behalf the middle class he cannot accept a deal that undercuts their economic security.
Our economy is continuing to strengthen but we cannot afford a self-inflicted wound from Washington. Republicans should compromise and meet the President in the middle. We cannot simply cut our way to prosperity, and if Republicans continue to insist on an unreasonable, cuts-only approach, Iowa risks paying the price.
In response to the numerous comments and complaints that the US Postal Service (USPS) received regarding Post Office closings, including the many times I shared Iowans’ and my own strong opposition to their plan, USPS has announced that instead of proceeding as planned with proposed closings they will keep small and rural postal locations open for business. However, some Post Offices will operate with reduced retail hours. Despite this change, access to retail lobbies and P.O. boxes will remain unchanged, as will towns’ ZIP codes.
I heard from many Iowans about the importance of local Post Offices and fought hard to ensure your voices were heard by the USPS. This represents a win for Iowans, especially for Iowans and small businesses in rural areas who often rely on the Postal Service for timely delivery of things like medication and business items. Keeping our Post Offices open will preserve valuable services for rural residents and allow our small businesses to continue operating efficiently to serve their customers and keep their bottom lines up. It will also preserve and create good jobs in our communities. From saving on fuel costs to preventing the loss of businesses and the jobs they support, keeping our Post Offices open is key to our rural economies.
My office is here to assist you with any and all concerns you have, so please do not hesitate to contact me whenever you feel that I can be of assistance. I encourage you to visit my website at www.loebsack.house.gov and sign up for my e-newsletters to stay informed of the work I’m doing for you. I am proud to serve the Second District, and I am committed to working hard for Iowans
Iowa’s Second District
Almost everyone we know, including us, seriously hated this article in the Atlantic by Stephen G. Bloom, Observations From 20 Years Of Iowa Life. Actually, some of the piece is very good – the factual, historical, informational sections. But the author’s characterizations of Iowans and Iowa culture while at times accurate, at other times are grossly inaccurate, and overall, not balanced. No one we know has ever heard of some of the cultural practices Stephen Bloom claims we have.
We wonder, why not just tell the truth? What is the point of all of the exaggeration? It would have been an excellent article on its own. It did not add interest to claim that we refer to Interstate 80 as “the highway” (we don’t). No one here refers to caucuses as “chat ‘n chews”. People in Iowa own dogs for companionship, not just for hunting. It goes on and on.
Iowans and a few others have fired back in the comment section of the Atlantic. There is a comment or two about the Iowans’ comments to the effect that we may appear a little thin-skinned to others for taking such offense. Fair enough. But no one likes to be turned into a cliche.
So, if you can get past that, you should probably read this otherwise good article that provides history and tells the rather tragic story of how Iowa has changed, beginning with the farm crisis of the 80′s, the relationship between the loss of small family farms, the rise of corporate farming, the meat packing industry, and immigration.
Finally, while the author says the article isn’t about whether Iowa “should determine the next U.S. president”, it clearly is about just that: “Whether a schizophrenic, economically-depressed, and some say, culturally-challenged state like Iowa should host the first grassroots referendum to determine who will be the next president isn’t at issue.” But after four pages describing Iowa, he closes with this: “That’s the place that may very well determine the next U.S. president.”
And actually, we agree. Iowa alone should not determine who will be the next president and Iowa does not determine this just because we vote first.
If you think Iowa has too much influence in presidential politics, we close with this: Iowa Democrats are similar to Democrats nationally. But Iowa Republicans are far more conservative than Republicans nationally. So perhaps it is the Iowa GOP who should not be allowed this responsibility. But as long as we’re pointing fingers, we would like to point to the corporate media for making the Iowa caucuses far more important than they should be in order to make a buck. Actually, lots of bucks.
So don’t blame us. We’re only doing our civic duty. If you think too much attention is paid to Iowa, tell the media.
When we consider all of the writers, news people and pundits in Iowa, there is none the author will miss more than Iowa Public Radio’s Jeneane Beck. She announced on twitter that she had taken a position as State Relations Officer for the University of Northern Iowa. The last story from Beck before the announcement was about the changing role of the Iowa lieutenant governor. It was thorough and engaging, and different from what others with a similar story beat have been writing recently. She tweeted about how the decision to leave radio was at first excruciating, then tough, as if each progressive post on social media was helping her move toward acceptance of the change. I am a fan of her work, as were many. She will be missed.
In Des Moines last March, Beck interviewed Mark Cooper, an expert on consumer issues related to electric utilities at my request. The Iowa House of Representatives was considering a bill on nuclear power and Cooper came to Iowa to talk to legislators about rate making and the bill they were considering. She was smart, well prepared, timely and professional throughout the interview process. When I told her I was a fan and that she did great work, she demurred. The thing is she is not the only journalist to be leaving the media in Iowa.
There has been an exodus of household named reporters in Iowa. The Des Moines Register’s Dave Yepsen was the first when he became director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University- Carbondale on April 1, 2009. Charlotte Eby was next, leaving Lee Enterprises after 15 years to join Larson Shannahan Slifka Group (LS2group), a bi-partisan public relations, public affairs and government affairs firm as an account executive. And now we lose Jeneane Beck. One has to wonder when Mike Glover of the Associated Press will turn it in, as he seems of an age for retirement. Who will replace them?
The truth may be that no one will. Yes, we have James Q. Lynch of Source Media Group, O. Kay Henderson of Radio Iowa and Kathie Obradovich of the Des Moines Register. But along the way, the paradigm shifted. In a day of RSS feeds, iGoogle, iPads, smart phones, Kindle and Nook, user news gathering has changed forever. Instead of a revered Pantheon of reporters, we are enabled to read what is important and relevant now, without loyalties or need of specific authors. The fact that I heard of Beck’s change via twitter is emblematic of the ability to follow a hashtag or tweeter with a click of a computer button when a story is relevant to our lives.
So farewell Jeneane Beck. Best wishes from your fans whose lives have improved because of your work on Iowa Public Radio.
~ Paul Deaton is a regular contributor to Blog for Iowa.
The Obstructed View: Has Branstad Asked Vander Plaats About This?
by Sam Osborne
Governor-elect (or re-elect) Branstad says he's not sure if some new rail service would be cost-effective. Does the Re-Gov think rubber on fast-weathering concrete is more cost effective than steel on steel?
In absence of a perspective that mankind is going to enjoy or suffer a future that arises from a combination of what is done and not done, does Branstad plan on dusting off an unused buggy whip and whuppin’ the State off into the sunset? In getting even further back to basics, best we realize the mistake made back when some road-improvement fool of the moment started yelling, “Get Iowa out of the mud”—they should ha’ been yelling, “Get a horse!”
And who says we need roads; trails were doing just fine until some fool, maybe that kite-flying Postmaster Ben Franklin, got us sucked into the same kind of road-building tomfoolery that brought down the Roman Empire. And who’s ever heard of trail rage? And talk about road rage, the Roman’s build the Appian Way and the next thing you know Spartacus and 6,000 other early Tea Party members get crucified along its way.
Roads are nothing more than an opportunity for law suits over accidents, and it is miraculous if an accident ever leads to something like St. Paul’s salvation when, as Saul on the Road to Damascus, he fell off of his ass and on to his head and saw the light.
Which brings to mind, has Branstad asked Bob Vander Plaats about this?
Meanwhile, in harmony with Iowa’s long-standing values and traditions, with a new governor there will need to be a new state slogan and how about, “Don’t just do something; stand there.”
Osborne, former editorial writer and Opinion Page Editor,
Iowa City Press-Citizen; former college professor and Business Department chair,
Ellsworth Community College; and currently out to pasture drinking too much
coffee. His commentary, The Obstructed View, appears on these blog pages every now and then.
Fairfield Mayor Shaking Things Up (In A Good Way)
Top 20 Small Town Mayors Shaking Things Up (In a Good Way)
“If you live in a small town, then you may know your mayor personally. While we don’t know the following mayors personally (most of whom are elected, not public administrators), we chose these individuals as the top 20 small town mayors because they seem to be shaking up their towns in a good way with more jobs, better infrastructure and/or a positive interactive government.
This list is not, by far, the total account of top small-town mayors in this country. It is a broad representation from across twenty random states. The mayors are listed in order of town size, which is noted in parenthesis after each mayor’s name. [click here for the complete list]
#14. Ed Malloy (9,509) is mayor of Fairfield, Iowa, named by Mother Earth News as one of the 12 Great Places You’ve Never Heard Of.
Fairfield hosts an Eco-Fair every year, and has the most homes with solar energy or other green building features in Iowa. The county has the most acres of organic cultivation in the state and many small businesses thrive here.”
In 2006 Fairfield was voted one of Iowa's Great Places. In 2003 they were named “The Most Entrepreneurial Community in America (10,000 population and under)” by the National Association of Small Communities and in 2004, “Iowa's Most Entrepreneurial Community.”
“Fairfield is a community of people who share a deep sense of pride in our past, the traditions that sustain us, and the activities that create our future. We are in many ways an over achieving bunch, who consider ourselves fortunate to have such a rich community to build upon…We value good government, good schools and educational opportunities, healthy living, recreation, arts and culture.”
Blog for Iowa congratulates Mayor Ed Malloy and the Fairfield community on their progressive achievements.
Tracy Kurowski's Labor Update will be back next Monday.
Iowa To Be Affected By Largest Slaughterhouse Ever
by Molly Regan
“…the tip of the environmental disaster iceberg”
Several miles from where the John Deere Classic golf tournament is held in Rock Island county Illinois, is the proposed location of a hog slaughterhouse. This slaughterhouse is slated to kill 16,000 pigs a day.
The result would bring nearly 250 semis a day from all around western Illinois and across the seven bridges that span the Mississippi River from Clinton to Davenport, IOWA. Hog waste, flies, mosquitoes, noise and light pollution, air filled with hydrogen sulfide and ammonia are just the tip of the environmental-disaster iceberg.
At the proposed site are four wetlands according to an employee at the Army Corps of Engineers. These wetlands act like a sponge. They help keep the Rock River from flooding worse than it already does, and at times, that can be quite extensive. Just ask someone who lives in Barstow or along Barstow Road. With these wetlands filled in, the flooding will increase. The Rock River flooded in February of 2009 after an early thaw and then iced over again.
Nearby, in IOWA, the rural country side will be riddled with an explosion of CAFO's small to huge to feed the appetite of those in Japan. It was reported several years ago by Triumph Foods that this proposed slaughterhouse would supply over 20% of its product to the Japanese. So, Iowa and Illinois are supposed to become the sewer for Japan so that Triumph can bring them meat that they don't raise. We are already the sewer for ourselves, the Mississippi, and for the Gulf of Mexico.
Infrastructure from bridges, interstates, primary and secondary roads including gravel roads, will need more maintenance…Who will pay for that? Not Triumph. You and I.
The last Friday in September 2006 on Highway 67 just north of LeClaire, IOWA a truck filled with animal parts and waste had an accident & spilled its load. Le Claire firefighters had to wash it off the highway. They washed it into a ditch about 100' feet from the Mississippi River. Guess where some of that ended up eventually?
On a late November day in 2004 when there were 30-40 mile an hour winds from the north, I could smell the stench of pig waste in Moline and knew the closest confinement was over five miles away, but still close enough for its smell to move miles.
It travels and it will travel to you. To your home, to the inside of your vehicle with your children as you travel across Scott county in Iowa or Rock Island county in Illinois. It will find you outside at a fair or a friend's graduation. Often one of the local bridges is backed up or closed for construction or an accident.
Hope you are not stuck on a bridge with one of these semis, loaded or unloaded. It will be too late then to speak out regarding this monstrosity when your nose and lungs are burning.
The John Deere Classic will go away. Every event in the Quad City area will be affected. Do you think over 10,000 runners will still want to navigate Brady Street Hill in Davenport for the Bix Beiderbecke Run while trying to catch their breath from pig fumes? It's a matter of physics & chemistry.
If this is built, they will go away.
We rest in a lowered elevation here along the beautiful Mississippi River Valley region. Our air will fill in with stench. You will have to keep your windows shut more often. The waste will be along our roads and the asthma causing toxins will fill the air.
This slaughterhouse will NOT cause economic development, it will cause people to move away.
One of the businesses that follows slaughterhouses is a semi wash. There was one built in a small IOWA town. It was so overused, it caused animal waste to come up into residents' washing machines and toilets.
This past year in a different state, waste from a livestock semi ended up on a highway, and children were injured when their school bus slid thru the * # * %
The hydrogen sulfide and ammonia and other toxins given off when hog waste accumulates in pits beneath the confinements, are extremely harmful to those who breath them in. According to Dr. Kaye Kimball in his book “Chemical Brain Injury,” he (yes, he's a he) says hydrogen sulfide and ammonia from animal waste cause disorientation, memory loss and death.
Please contact your elected officials. Triumph foods wants their loan for this awful project to be backed by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) in case they default. If this backing is approved by the USDA, and if Triumph goes under or defaults, who will pay for it?…You and I, the taxpayers.
Certain business people want government regulators off their back, but the next day, they have an open, outstretched palm for a government subsidy or guarantee. Regulations should trump all.
This type of business and the CAFOs that follow, are not sustainable. They do not support the small independent family farmers.
When Triumph built its slaughterhouse in St. Joseph, Missouri, many were brought in from outside the area to build it. These are just several reasons why other citizens protested loudly when Triumph came to their town to try to build. Triumph was told … NO!.
Read David Kirby's new book “Animal Factory” as he traces the true stories of how hog confinements robbed people of their livelihood and health. “Empire Of The Pigs” by Donald Bartlett & James Steele has excellent informational background on these confinements and their effects on people. Bartlet & Steele's articles appeared in Time magazine in 1998.
These award winning writers will tell you what happens when a slaughterhouse moves near or into a community.
This is our community. This is our playground.
loan guarantee for Triumph. Call Vilsack's DC office at the USDA
Regan, activist extraordinaire, environmental facilitator, elected
official, and member of Progressive Action for
the Common Good in the Quad Cities. Don't forget to CPR…Conserve/Participate/Recycle
Care Reform Update: Covering the Uninsured in Iowa (and Illinois) is a Moral Issue
by Alta Price, M.D.
Spring brings Cover the Uninsured Week, March 14 – 20, sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. I wrote about it last year, and you can read my post with more details here.
Check out the state-specific information for Iowa here. About 92 percent of Iowans can get health care when they need it, although if you scroll down the page for details you’ll see this is based on data collected in 2005-2006. With the poor economy, I assume more than 8 percent of Iowans today can not get health care when they need it. (The number of Illinois residents that can get health care when they need it is about 88 percent.)
For those of us on the left, health care is a right, and making sure everyone in the richest country in the world has access to health care is a moral issue. Since Americans share values of fairness, equity, and compassion for the less fortunate, our leaders should be making a stronger argument from a moral framework. I’ll quote this David Ignatius column from the Washington Post How Obama can shift the health-care debate:
Both the Senate and House health care reform bills that have passed Congress extend coverage to millions who are currently uninsured – a major step towards a more just society.
If you look at polls, like this Pew Research Center poll from January, you will see that only 26% of self-identified Republicans, versus 75% of Democrats and 41% of Independents, think providing health insurance to the uninsured is a “top priority.” Of course there is much more to the bill that Republicans and Independents will like, but they really don’t care about the 30 million people who will finally get health insurance if this bill passes.
Tell your Republican friends that health care security is a major benefit of the health care reform bills for those currently insured. Just because you have insurance today does not mean you will have it tomorrow.
Without reform more employers will drop coverage.
Without reform if you lose your job because of a serious illness, you may not be able to afford to keep your insurance even for the limited period of time you are entitled to continue participating in your employer’s plan under COBRA.
Without reform people who get sick, or have a seriously ill family member, will continue to be dropped by their insurer.
Without reform people with pre-existing conditions will not be able to get health insurance if they want to start a small business or work for an employer who doesn’t provide insurance. Most of the people who go bankrupt because of health care expenses actually have health insurance.
Without reform, people with health insurance will continue to face financial ruin when they use up the annual or lifetime limits of their policy, or discover their insurance is junk insurance when they try to get the care they need. (See also this excellent editorial from the New York Times – If Reform Fails).
So even if your Republican friends don’t care about the 22,000 – 45,000 Americans who die every year due to lack of insurance, this bill may save their life some day should they have the misfortune of becoming ill or losing their job when they already have a pre-existing condition. (Note: The number of deaths varies depending upon the study/methodology.)
For those who do care, the Health Care Reform Issue Forum of Progressive Action for the Common Good, together with the Illinois Campaign for Better Health Care, will be having a “die-in” on Thursday, March 11, 2010, at noon. We are having the event in Rock Island, Illinois (we are a bi-state progressive community) at St. John’s Lutheran Church, 4501 7th Ave.
We will be using some of our Handprints for Health Care panels to depict the number of people who die every day from lack of insurance. Some participants will further dramatize the plight of the uninsured by “dying” – crumpling to the ground. The “die-in” will be videotaped and put up at YouTube. (If you want to come and be in the video, arrive at 11:30 am, dressed in black, for the rehearsal!)
Next week I’ll bring the link to the YouTube video along!
Price is a physician practicing Pathology in Davenport, Iowa. One of
the original Deaniacs, she stays involved with Democracy for America,
Iowa, and the Quad Cities. She advocates for quality, affordable health
care for all, primarily as a volunteer with Progressive Action for the
Common Good (Health Care Reform Issue Forum). Watch for Dr. Price's Health Care Reform Update every Tuesday here on Blog for Iowa. E-Mail Alta Price