December is the calm before the storm. I’ve delayed writing a post-election synopsis partly due to the fact that the gains Republicans made in the 2014 election are so enormous it is hard to digest what that all means into a cohesive blog entry.
But analyzing them is even more difficult to decipher since parallel to GOP electoral victories, 2014 also resulted in populist referendum victories.
In Illinois, though voters chose billionaire Republican Bruce Rauner by 50.8 percent over incumbent Governor Pat Quinn 45.9 percent, those same voters also approved progressive advisory referenda by wide margins. 67% of Illinoisans voted to raise the minimum wage, and 63.5% of them also voted to levy a millionaire tax.
They also voted to amend the Illinois constitution to protect voting rights with this language:
“No person shall be denied the right to register to vote or to cast a ballot in an election based on race, color, ethnicity, status as a member of a language minority, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or income.”
This far-reaching language now enshrined in the constitution isn’t exactly what you’d expect from a populace that selected for Governor a man whose private equity firm CTGR is named in over 150 lawsuits for negligence and wrongful deaths at nursing homes managed by the firm.
Other states had similar results. Voters chose Republicans overwhelmingly for state legislatures, and they now have majorities in a majority of states. Voters also elected more Republicans and the GOP now controls the US Senate.
However, like in Illinois, voters themselves when given direct authority on actual policy, showed remarkably progressive positions.
Other states that approved minimum wage increases through ballot measures in 2014 include Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota. Not exactly bastions of liberalism there.
Anchorage voters repealing an ordinance which had removed city employees’ right to strike, limited annual pay increases, outlawed performance bonuses or incentives in future contracts, and set up a system for outsourcing some work done by city employees. Has Sarah Palin land suddenly surged to the left?
Also, Phoenix voters defeated Proposition 487, which would have changed the city’s retirement system from a defined benefit system to a 401(k)-style defined contribution plan. Certainly there are a lot of retirees in Arizona, but they typically are anti-union conservatives, so what gives?
And it’s not just economic or voting issues that demonstrate that the electorate is far more liberal that the conservatives they elected. Marijuana expanded its legitimacy with legalization approved by voters or legislators in Oregon, Alaska, and the District of Columbia.
So, come January, we will have a collection of conservative legislators at the state and national levels who will insist they were given a mandate to push through conservative positions even though just 36.4% of voters bothered to turn out.
We will have a Senate led by Mitch McConnell who will push the TPP, Keystone Pipeline (1st vote of the session!), and a repeal of Obamacare.
Wisconsin Republicans will introduce Right to Work legislation to weaken the private sector unions. In other states, where RTW hasn’t been able to pass the statehouse, Republican County Supervisors and City Council members will introduce it at the municipal level.
A bill in Missouri will be sponsored that requires a woman to get her husband’s permission to terminate her pregnancy.
Iowa’s Republican Governor promises to further drain the state’s revenues with income tax cuts, a move that will likely be supported by weak-kneed Democrats fearful for electoral retribution in 2016.
And beyond the walls of the legislative halls, the barons of Wall Street will have free reign to profit off toxic assets that are underwritten by you and me thanks to the bi-partisan budget bill just passed by Congress and signed by President Obama.
We will have to contend with a conservative dominated Supreme Court that just issued a decision that legalizes wage theft.
But we will also have a progressive dominated National Labor Relations Board and lower court appointments just approved by the Senate.
So what shall we do to prepare for the new year? Get a good pair of marching boots and hone your listening and speaking skills so we do not approach policy like a bunch of shrill reactionaries.
And do as we always say in the Labor Movement: organize, organize, organize!
We seem to have had a turn over in our weather patterns. Shortly after Halloween we went directly to cold December type weather complete with snow. Since December 1, we seem to have reverted to November weather with highs in the cool autumn mode. If this proves anything, I think it is do not anger the weather gods. They mess with us just for fun. If we complain, they just mess with us more.
Speaking of messing with us, I had almost forgotten that Dec. 12, 2000 was the date of the last American revolution. If you have forgotten, that is the date that five members of the US Supreme Court chose the president over the vote of the American people. Disaster ensued.
Were you paying attention last week?
1) December has many holidays that represent the return of light (the sun). This Swedish festival celebrated on Dec. 13 features young girls wearing a head wreath of leaves with candles and a white gown. Can you name the saint at the center of this festival?
2) Speaking of Scandinavian countries, our Patent Office refused a patent to a Norwegian company because the name of their product was “offensive.” Do you know the product’s name?
3) The final nail in coffin for Democrats came in Louisiana Tuesday when Sen. Mary Landrieu was defeated by what challenger?
4) Folks in what Iowa tourist mecca took an icy “polar bear” plunge last Sunday to raise money for ‘Toys For Tots’?
5) Many players in what pro sport wore pre-game warm ups that had a message saying “I Can’t Breathe”?
6) Which former major retailer and it subsidiary announced last week that it would close approximately 15% of its stores next year?
7) December 16,1944, Iowa lost one of its most famous sons. There is still controversy on what may have happened, but we know that what famous band leader of the era died in a plane crash on that day?
8) Well, the Senate Intelligence Committee released its report on CIA torture this week. What Republican senator was the only one who said the report needed to be released?
9) With oil prices tumbling, what do many analysts feel that the break even price for pumping North American oil is?
10) Thursday the US House passed a funding bill to fund the government until September except for one department. What is the department and why was it excluded?
11) In that funding bill there was an add on clause that many critics claim was written by what financial company?
12) Once again I was disappointed as I was passed over for Time Magazine’s Person of the Year. Who did win this honor this year?
13) For the second time in a couple of weeks, citizens of what state are getting pummeled by powerful storms that may signal an end to one of their longest droughts ever?
14) Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal will kick off his presidential campaign with a prayer rally in Baton Rouge on Jan. 24. In a handout in preparation for the event, Jindal blames natural disaster’s such as Hurricane Katrina on what?
15) What GOP presidential primary runner up in 2012 announced his 2016 candidacy to a deafening roar of silence Thursday?
Remember while we are freezing here in the north, folks in the southern hemisphere are going through yet another record breaking summer.
1) Lucia aka Santa Lucia or Saint Lucy
2) Comfyballs (yep just what it sounds like)
3) Bill Cassidy
4) Clear Lake
5) Professional basketball (the NBA)
6) Sears along with Kmart plan to close @235 of 1800 stores
7) Glenn Miller – some thought is that he was lost in a spy mission
8) John McCain because he was tortured
9) $50/ barrel. Oil prices were in the middle $50s at the end of the week.
10) Homeland Security. This was to punish Obama for his “amnesty” of immigrants
11) Citibank. This provision gutted the main provision of Dodd-Franks
12) Ebola fighters
14) homosexuality and abortion. He plans a massive stadium prayer rally to announce his candidacy
15) Rick Santorum. Someone call Foster Friess!
Team monikers at all levels of sports–professional and amateur–often rely on First Americans for the words on their jerseys and inspiration for their cartoonish mascots. The impact is nationwide because the National Football League, with a number of Indian named teams, sponsors the most watched sport in the U. S.
The debate over the racist name and mascot of the professional football team based in the nation’s capital, the “Redskins,” has intensified in recent months. Of all the offensive sports teams’ names, none has captured the attention of the media and the public as much as the Washington team. Ironically, this is also the most well-known team name and likely perceived by the public as the most innocuous.
Yet, the term, “Redskins,” carries linguistic and historical evidence that constitutes a disparaging epithet insulting to Native Americans. It derives from a 1755 British proclamation identifying Penobscot Indians in Massachusetts as enemies for resisting the colonization of their lands. The proclamation established a genocidal practice of scalping Native American men, women, and children to earn a bounty. A bounty hunter could prove he had killed a native by turning in scalps called “redskins.” Indians became wild animals to be hunted and skinned.
In a May 10, 2013 USA Today interview, Daniel Snyder, owner of the Washington football team, indicated the name would never be changed. Whether Snyder likes it or not, his team’s name is a living reminder of this horrifying practice.
The American public has been conditioned by the sports industry, educational institutions, and the media to trivialize indigenous people and culture as common and harmless entertainment. Some fans insist their team’s name is an honorable tribute, not a bias, just a team name, not a slur. Others cite the loss of legacy and money involved in adopting a new name.
For decades, virtually every Native American organization has condemned the use of demeaning images associated with sports teams. The slurs are hurtful and insulting to our nation’s first inhabitants and their descendants. They promote negative stereotypes, reinforce erroneous and hateful information, and remind indigenous people of the limited ways in which others see them.
The real and harmful effects on indigenous people, particularly the young, occur every day. The American Psychological Association called for the “immediate retirement of all American Indian mascots, symbols, images, and personalities by schools, colleges, universities, athletic teams, and organizations” nearly ten years ago. The American Counseling Association and the American Sociological Association also support elimination of these disgraceful, shameful, and racist stereotypes.
Indians have waged a long campaign urging sports leagues to stop promoting slurs that denigrate others on the basis of race and ethnicity. Major civil rights groups and coalitions of religious leaders have also pushed for name changes. A groundswell of DC public opinion now approves abandoning the “Redskins” name. Support has come from President Obama and a bipartisan group of fifty U. S. Senators as well. Even staunch right-wingers like Representative Tom Cole, himself a Native American, and columnist Charles Krauthammer have called for a new name.
The movement against offensive Native American names and imagery has had an impact with the number of First American logos, names, and mascots dropping from over 3,000 in 1970 to less than 1,000 today. Many colleges and universities across the country have dropped their Native American names, mascots, and logos.
The issue here is not political correctness but promoting human dignity. Using Indian names, likenesses, and religious symbols to excite the crowd at athletic contests shows disrespect and dishonor. The elimination of the misrepresentations and abuses of Indian images, names, and spirituality will require much more work.
December 4, 2014
“Pro, Reclaiming Abortion Rights,” a just-published book by Katha Pollitt, could just as easily have been called “Because Women’s Lives Matter,” adopting the phrase used in the aftermath of the Ferguson shooting. Framing reproductive rights as a Civil Right must be asserted if we are to successfully combat the increasing prohibitions against not only abortion but even birth control.
“Pro” is also a book about civil rights for women who choose to have children. This task – so crucial to the survival of humanity – is horribly maligned by our economic and political policies that make parenting extremely difficult if not impossible for many poor women and/or women who want to also fulfill their lives with careers outside the home.
Pollitt spends many pages in the book describing women’s rights to raise children in a society that truly values motherhood with equal pay laws, child care subsidies, access to health care and education, family planning guidance, and respect for the work women do in and out of the home.
“Pro” is an unapologetic and well-researched book about the right of a woman to make reproductive choices based on her unique needs, which is precisely the compromise made when the Supreme Court issued its decision in Roe v Wade. This basic right for the sex of our species that gets impregnated from the widely practiced sex act underlies all other rights that women have. If she can’t control her body, how can she ever control her wages, her career, her family, or any other aspect of her life?
However, this fundamental right of women to lead their own lives is exactly what so offends the patriarchy that still largely governs public and private life on this planet.
See, the anti-choice movement is not about protecting life; it is about controlling women’s lives. More specifically, disallowing her to have reproductive freedom keeps her in a position of lesser power in society and in the home. As one woman stated in a Playboy interview published in 1970 before Roe v Wade, “I feel like I don’t have to be declared nutty to make up for the fact that my diaphragm didn’t work. I refuse to go through this humiliating process.”
At that time, before the Supreme Court legalized abortion nationwide, some women in some circumstances in some states could still have a legal abortion. She had to prove she was mentally unstable to a court. Or she had to have enough money to get an illegal abortion at a provider willing to skirt the law at the right price. Or have access to any of the women’s support network that existed to enable a woman to not have to give birth because she conceived.
Legalization of abortion has little effect on the number of abortions women have. In fact one million American women had abortions each year before Roe. The same number of women have abortions today, but under the safety of legality. Furthermore it is safer for a woman to abort than to carry the fetus to full term. Only .6 in 100,000 women die as a result of abortions- compared to 8.8 women per 100,000 who die of child birth. This liability is the reason why most health insurance plans covered abortion before it became an issue with the Affordable Care Act. According to the National Institutes of Health “Legal induced abortion is markedly safer than childbirth.”
The decision to bear a child is among the most significant decisions women make. And since women, who by nature and evolution, are the sex that are equipped to do this, it must be women who are enabled to make a decision as a personal choice. As Pollitt puts in her crucial book, let women decide. Women’s right to decide for themselves when and if having a child is good for her and her family is, according to Pollitt, “a positive social good.”
Iowa Federation of Labor
Catch this week’s Fallon Forum live on Monday from 11:00 am – 12:00 noon on KDLF 1260 AM “La Reina.” Join the conversation by calling in at (515) 528-8122. And you 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.
“What does labor want? We want more schoolhouses and less jails; more books and less arsenals; more learning and less vice; more leisure and less greed; more justice and less revenge; in fact, more of the opportunities to cultivate our better natures.” – Samuel Gompers, founder and long-time president of the American Federation of Labor
The American Labor movement has a prestigious history of accomplishments that benefit each and every one of us. Samuel Gompers – who died ninety years ago this week – provided the Labor movement not just with leadership and vision, but with a firm moral compass as well.
Yet as I walked across America, I met hundreds of hard-working people who had lost faith in Labor – people whose lives and land were being ruined by fracking, pipelines and pollution from oil and gas refineries. In each case, Labor’s leaders turned a deaf ear to the plight of those in the cross hairs of fossil-fuel expansion. They were focused solely on jobs to the point that they no longer cared what impact those jobs had on the well-being of others and future generations.
And I had to ask, “Has Labor lost its moral compass?”
As I attended one of the public meetings on the proposed Bakken Oil Pipeline last week, I thought about Gompers. Sure, everyone can get behind building a school. But what would Gompers say when it came to building jails, prisons, arsenals or pipelines? Would he agree with the leadership of the Iowa AFL-CIO in choosing to side with Big Oil over farmers, landowners, environmentalists, and the long-term best interest of its own members? I seriously doubt it.
I panned the roughly 250 people in attendance at last week’s public meeting and saw a crowd mostly opposed to the pipeline, or at best unconvinced. Then there was the other side: a few officials and staff of the corporations that will get rich; a handful of labor union reps; and some key Democratic and Republican operatives, including a former state party chair (Republican) and a former legislative leader (Democrat).
So, what does the Iowa Democratic Party Platform say relevant to the proposed pipeline?
“We support . . . Converting from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy;”
“We oppose . . . Tar sands oil/Keystone XL Pipeline;” and
“We oppose . . . Favoring private enterprise with Eminent Domain.” (On this point, the platform of the Republican Party of Iowa concurs.)
Given their history and stated policy, leaders of both the Iowa AFL-CIO and the Iowa Democratic Party should come out against the Bakken Oil Pipeline. In doing so, they would stand with their core constituencies and demonstrate an integrity and vision that look beyond short-term job creation and the next election cycle.
Thanks, and I hope to meet you on the airwaves this week!
I found this story while looking for another story on billmoyers.com. As many of you know, Bill Moyers was Lyndon Johnson’s press secretary. Moyers has been a figure on public television nearly since its birth. He has exposed the charlatans and crooks and pointed out the crises caused by capitalism. He retired once but was coaxed back to fill the void he had left. Now he is set to retire permanently. He will really never be replaced.
Here are some excerpts from a story most Americans want to ignore – the homeless in America. Remember Republicans claim it is a choice these people make:
Levi Cummings didn’t die of old age. He didn’t die in an accident, and he wasn’t murdered. Cummings died because he was homeless.
He likely froze to death — the state medical examiner must still officially release the cause of death — last Thursday, a victim of the polar vortex and of his inability to afford a place to stay.
There are currently 578,424 homeless people living in the United States, a third of whom have no shelter at all. As temperature start to fall across the country, they are an extremely vulnerable population, even in areas of the country that don’t regularly see freezing temperatures like Oklahoma and California. More could soon suffer Cummings’s fate.
Many cities have emergency procedures in place when temperatures drop in order to make more shelter available for people who are on the streets. But those procedures are often too restrictive to prevent otherwise-preventable deaths. For example, even though hypothermia can set in when temperatures are as high as 50 degrees Fahrenheit, many cities don’t open the doors to their winter shelters until temperatures hit freezing or below. In Des Moines, as the National Coalition for the Homeless pointed out, temperatures have to drop all the way to 20 degrees, and in Baltimore it needs to hit 13 degrees with wind chill before winter shelter procedures are put in effect.
Were you paying attention last week or were you so stuffed with turkey you slept through the week?
1) Feel a smile coming to your face today? November 30th is the birthday of America’s greatest humorist and observer of humanity. What great humorist was born on this date in Florida, Missouri in 1835?
2) This man’s name became a household name by the end of this week. What is the name of the St. Louis County prosecutor who announced the decision in the Darren Wilson case this week?
3) Liberals held their breath when news that what SCOTUS justice was treated for a heart blockage with a stent?
4) OPEC met last week and decided to do what with their production in the face of falling oil prices?
5) What legendary writer, performer and director and one of the few winners of the EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony) awards died last week?
6) Negotiations between the state of Iowa and its employees union began last week with the parties far apart on what two issues?
7) The European Parliament is considering a proposal to break up what company?
8) Russia is losing as much as $100 billion a year due to what?
9) December 1, 1955 Rosa Parks is arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white person in Montgomery, Alabama. On December 5th what response to her arrest began?
10) Pope Francis is on a little trip. Where is the Pope venturing out to?
11) A gunman in Austin, Texas went on a rampage Friday morning shooting at several government buildings, including the Mexican consulate. One motive was thought to be what?
12) President Obama and his family kept up their Thanksgiving tradition of doing what for the poor on Wednesday?
13) A work of art by what woman was auctioned off for a record $4.4 million, a record for a woman artist?
14) Workers for what major retailer once more staged demonstrations throughout the country on Black Friday?
15) Protestors of the Ferguson grand jury decision temporarily shut down 3 malls in what major city Friday?
In a time honored tradition, yours truly will do his shopping sometime on December 24th. I mean, what’s the hurry?
1) Mark Twain or Sam Clemens if you wish
2) Bob McCulloch
3) Ruth Bader Ginsburg
4) nothing – maintain their current production
5) Mike Nichols
6) wage hikes and who pays what for health insurance
8) the downturn in oil prices
9) the Montgomery bus boycott
11) the new executive order on immigrants
12) handing out food at Bread for the City.
13) Georgia O’Keefe
15) St. Louis
Here is a brief video of the first family handing out food. For the life of me I can not understand why they are so vilified.
Dont feel like joining the crowds of shoppers on Black Friday at the big box stores? True, you can always shop local. Or you can do something for someone who literally has nothing. Here is one idea from the Animal Rescue site. http://blog.theanimalrescuesite.com/feralshelteridea/
“Making a shelter for feral cats takes about ten minutes and provides warmth, safety, and protection from the cold weather months. Now that’s what we call a simple way to make a difference! Watch the video below for straight forward instructions–supervised by Marmalade the cat, of course!”
A note from Progress Iowa:
If you’re like me, you’re about to head home for the holidays, and you know what’s coming: that dreaded conversation with your conservative Uncle.
Every year he corners you because he doesn’t get the chance to talk to many progressives. And then it begins: Obamacare, Hillary, gay marriage, Benghazi, the list goes on and on.
Don’t worry — you’re not alone, and we’re here to help! This year try our 3-step recipe for survival in any conversation with your conservative Uncle (or Aunt, cousin, brother, parent, or in-laws!). Just preheat the conversation, stir in a few facts, then bake until perfection!
Step 1: Preheat the conversation. You can’t just start shouting facts at your conservative Uncle. They’re used to hearing angry, reactionary voices from Rush Limbaugh to Bill O’Reilly. Stay calm, and renew your personal connection. After all, you’re family! Most importantly, do not appear too thoughtful — conservatives may confuse this for weakness.
Step 2: Stir in the facts. Nothing gives conservatives more power than the myths they cling to. Stirring in the facts once you’ve warmed up the conversation is the most important step in the process. Make sure they are given the truth — it may take a while to counteract all the bad ingredients they’ve been given by the far right. Here are a few myths they may try to promote, along with facts you can stir in to the conversation:
MYTH: This year’s elections mean conservatives are winning over the country.
FACT: Recent polling shows that Americans believe we should lower the cost of student loans (80%), increase spending on infrastructure (75%), raise the minimum wage (65%), and address climate change (59%). [Source: NBC News/Wall St Journal]
MYTH: President Obama’s executive actions on immigration shredded the constitution.
FACT: Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush took similar actions on immigration; President Obama’s decision will keep families together and improve our economy by bringing in millions in tax revenue. [Source: Associated Press/ABC News]
MYTH: The situation in Ferguson had nothing to do with race, it was simply justice being served.
FACT: There is a ‘staggering disparity’ between the races in our justice system, and the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson is the latest tragic example of that systemic disparity. [Source: USA Today]
MYTH: Obamacare is failing and unpopular.
FACT: Obamacare [The Affordable Care Act] has covered millions of Americans who previously went without insurance, and more than 70% of Americans like their Obamacare plans. [Source: Gallup]
MYTH: Gay Marriage is ruining our families, and the Supreme Court has no place deciding the issue.
FACT: The majority of Americans support same-sex marriage, and agree with the Supreme Court’s recent decisions approving same-sex marriages. [Source: ABC News]
MYTH: Benghazi is one of the biggest scandals in American history.
FACT: A committee organized and planned by Republicans just debunked the conspiracy theories behind this myth. [Source: CNN]
MYTH: Climate change is a myth, or ‘the science isn’t settled’ on the issue.
FACT: The scientific community agrees by a 97% margin that climate change is real and man-made [Source: Washington Post]. Major corporations are now planning for climate change, why shouldn’t we work to prevent it? [Source: Boston Globe]
MYTH: Voter ID laws are needed to stop voter fraud and protect our democracy.
FACT: Voter fraud is almost nonexistent, and Voter ID laws are designed to suppress voter turnout among minorities, the elderly, and the young. [Source: Brennan Center for Justice]
Step 3: Bake until appropriately cooked. At this point, your conservative Uncle will be roasting in his own myths and half truths, so forgive him if he’s a bit thrown off. Take your time and be patient, let him fully cook, and patiently explain the error of his ways.
There’s your simple three step recipe. If all else fails, feel free to send us an email. We’ll be checking ThanksgivingHelp@progressiowa.org and prepared with answers to your questions and fact-check any myths we haven’t covered.
Good luck, and Happy Thanksgiving!
P.S. Like any good recipe, this one should be passed on to other progressives in your family. Click here to share it on Facebook!