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20 reasons Not To Re-elect Branstad

branstad jobs numbers

A big thanks to Don Paulson of Muscatine for letting me use and combine his two LTTEs to his local paper into one complete list of Branstad “accomplishments.”

We need to elect Jack Hatch as Iowa’s governor! There are a lot of blemishes on the record of our current governor. Here are twenty reasons not to re-elect Terry Branstad-

#20- Branstad’s campaign pulled a dirty trick by creating a fake Jack Hatch website.

#19- Branstad actually hosted the Family Research Council’s “hate fest” in Ames earlier this year.

#18- At a Texas fundraiser Branstad admitted support for “tort reform”.

#17- In an insult to the principle of the separation of church and state, Branstad was an active participant and signed a state declaration for Bob Vander Plaats’s “Day of Prayer and Fasting”.

#16- The renovations at the Iowa Veterans Home are mired in controversy.

#15- Branstad’s Administration gave up a $1 million solar grant.

#14- His corporate tax cut will leave cities and counties short of funds.

#13- The Orascom boondoggle.

#12- With our roads and bridges falling apart, Branstad has shown zero leadership on raising the gas tax.

#11- Branstad has cost the taxpayers over $500,000 in legal fees in trying to unfairly get rid of Christopher Godfrey.

#10- Branstad illegally closed the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo.

#9- Branstad illegally closed 36 unemployment offices at the height of the Great Recession.

#8- Iowa’s water pollution and soil erosion are still a huge problem.

#7- Branstad’s Administration took the Chief Administative Law Judge’s position and made it susceptible to political pressure from the Governor’s office.

#6- Branstad still has close ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council.

#5- Branstad has failed to cut the cost of state government. According to a study reported in the 8/31/14 Des Moines Register, state spending has gone up 17.5%.

#4- Another one of Branstad’s big goals was to create 200,000 jobs. So far the net number of jobs created since 2011 is around 74,000.

#3- Another big Branstad goal was to increase Iowa family incomes by 25%. Here was another miserable failure. According to the same Register study incomes have gone up just 0.17%.

#2- Branstad packed the Iowa Board of Medicine with people that did away with Planned Parenthood’s telemedicine arrangement.

#1- Instead of expanding Medicare, Branstad tried to push through a vastly inferior health insurance plan called the “Healthy Iowa Plan”.

#0- A state auditor report has found there have been 42 settlement agreements by this Administration totaling $2.4 million dollars.

These reasons should give everyone pause about re-electing Terry Branstad. Another reason may be his health.

At the first debate, Branstad’s shaking hands and erratic behavior was plainly evident. Does he have Parkinson’s disease or something like that? The rumors persist that if re-elected Branstad will step down after a time and allow the incredibly average Kim Reynolds to become governor without having to go through an election.

I’ve Got A Thousand Million Questions

question
A line from that Moody Blues song “Question” –
“I’ve got a thousand million questions
About hate and death and war.”

And budgets and the wealth gap and the environment and health care and education and … well many more. Can I substitute for Dean Borg one week? Please?

1) Let’s start with the budget. Once again we appear to be moving to war with no talk of how we will pay for the bombs and the planes and the soldiers so on and so forth. Yet that will not stop us from going to war. However, we have bridges about to fall down, schools that are unsafe, sewer and water lines bursting around the country that are not being addressed. Why do we always have money for war, but no money for infrastructure needs?

2) An add on to the previous question, how will you pay for the next war? Please be specific on added taxes or program cuts and who will be affected.

3) Around the country we have seen corporations create major public damage to common goods like waterways, aquifers, land, health and more yet they walk away from responsibility for those damages. Tell me what you will do to relieve taxpayers of the burden of corporate irresponsibility?

4) As a country we have spent trillions to secure oil from the middle east through wars and standing armies and aid. It looks as though we will be in the middle east as long as we need oil. What are your proposals to get off the oil addiction?

5) who are you largest donors? What will they get for their investment in you?

6) When we go into war, the lives and bodies of soldiers are broken. We have been greatly negligent in repairing those broken lives and bodies. Would you favor a tax to pay for soldier maintenance throughout their lives before we send them into war?

7) Should there be a tax or cost added to products to pay for their impact on the environment?

8) Why do companies get tax breaks when they move jobs and facilities out of the US? What will you do to bring these jobs and facilities back? How will your approach work.

9) There is a new awareness of battered women in this country. What have you done in the past to address this problem and what do you propose that the government can do?

10) Finally – It has been nearly 2 years since the Sandy Hook massacre. We are killing each other as if we are in an internal war. What proposals will you advance to end this slaughter and tell us why they will work?

I could go on and I bet you could also. I really want to hear questions that affect our daily lives and see if the politicians understand what their platitudes mean.

“I’ve got a thousand million questions
About hate and death and war.”

Dangers Of The Hobby Lobby Ruling

Thank You, Mr. President

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

Across country there has been a storm of lawsuits. They reflect contested rights as some businesses and institutions ask for express legal permission to use religion to discriminate based on sexual orientation, sex and gender identity.

Just over a month ago, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) contraceptive mandate could not be applied to Hobby Lobby, a secular, for-profit corporation with religious objections to four of some twenty types of contraception. The Christian-owned craft store operates nearly 600 stores and employs well over 13,000. The company donates ten percent of its profits to charities, and last year it raised the minimum wage for full-time workers to $14 an hour.

A significant portion of the firm’s employees are women. Unfortunately, the ruling means that employees who do not share their employers’ religious beliefs can be denied access to contraceptive coverage. Put another way, the decision means that “faith” can dictate healthcare policy regardless of the impact of that faith on employees.

The court’s decision marks the first time that it has allowed commercial business owners to deny employees a federal benefit to which they are entitled by law based on the owners’ religious beliefs. The company’s religious exemption claim from the ACA contraceptive mandate appears hypocritical. The company went along with coverage of these same contraceptives when they provided private insurance for their employees. The company, then, provided the very kind of health coverage it finds impossible to reconcile with its religious beliefs before the ACA existed.

While filing a lawsuit against the ACA contraception mandate, the company, ironically, also spent millions of dollars on an employee retirement plan that invested in the manufacturers of the same contraception products cited in the lawsuit. The company’s retirement accounts show investment in companies that develop, market, and sell contraceptives.

If the company really wants to ensure that they are anti-abortion in every way, it should provide employees with paid parental leave. This would make the company a corporate leader.

Never before has the court been so firmly divided along partisan lines, with all of the Republican appointees more conservative than all of the Democratic ones. It should be noted, too, that protests to the court’s decision have come from a wide variety of religious denominations.

According to the government, nearly thirty million women receive birth control as a result of the health care law. Critics say the ruling discriminates against women, the vast majority of whom will use birth control at some point in their lives.

The ruling raises other issues, too, by opening the door to all manner of claims that a company can refuse employment and accommodations based on its owner’s religion. Other questions about the startling breadth of the decision come to mind. Doesn’t the decision allow employers to get between women and their doctors? Can LGBT people be denied access to services? Could the ruling harm those who experience domestic violence? What happens now to the line between religion and the state?

Leonard Pitts, Jr., a Miami Herald columnist, called the court’s decision “frightening” because it involves “the imposition of religion masquerading as freedom of religion.” Meanwhile, Des Moines Register columnist Rekha Basu wrote, “America is a pluralistic nation without a state religion, and the government is not allowed to pick and choose which religions can claim certain rights or exemptions.”

The company has a right to consider certain forms of birth control immoral. It does not have a right to make contraceptive decisions for everyone they employ. Religious liberty properly belongs to individuals and religious institutions, not to for-profit corporations. Religious liberty gives you the right to make decisions for yourself, not for others.

Ralph Scharnau teaches U.S. history at Northeast Iowa Community College, Peosta. He holds a Ph.D. from Northern Illinois University. His publications include articles on labor history in Iowa and Dubuque. Scharnau, a peace and justice activist, writes monthly op-ed columns for the Dubuque Telegraph Herald.

“We Are Willing To Fight For It!”

Ladies and Gentlemen, Senator Elizabeth Warren at Netroots Nation last Saturday:

If Reublicans take control of the senate, our country will once more be stopped from moving forward. Worse yet we will most likely go through two years of money wasting impeachment hearings or nearly as bad, committees clogged with nothing but investigations on Obama (and Hillary Clinton by proxy).

Elizabeth Warren lays out in a short space most of what the Democratic Party stands for:
– Addressing the Climate Crisis
– Equality
– regulation of Wall Street
– Good, affordable Education through post secondary.
– decent paying jobs and equality of pay
– Science
– net neutrality
– Social Security and Medicare.
– Women

Give a few hours and a few dollars to help Bruce Braley. Iowa simply can’t afford to send another far right wing Republican to Washington. Also, do not forget Dave Loebsack, Staci Appel, Jim Mowrer (to beat the crazy King) and Pat Murphy. Iowa desperately need to fully retire our part-time, double-dipping, scandal ridden governor and put a man with vision, Jack Hatch, in his place.

A few dollars, a few hours and we can do it!

elizabeth-warren-fiery-aflcio-speech

Thoughts On Hobby Lobby

425974_3142943487122_1071014505_32954121_1658586772_n
As a son of a woman, a spouse to a woman, the father of two young women and the uncle of several women, I could hardly let the decision in Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius go by without comment. Briefly this is indeed a major setback for women’s rights in this country. It is also a major setback for those who believe that courts are impartial. The Roberts Court has been shaped by reactionary leaders over a long period to favor the rich and powerful, the corporations over people at all turns. By picking very young justices, the Roberts Court will have more influence over lives in this country than almost any other group of politicians. All without any recourse from citizens.

Some of my thoughts on the ramifications of this decisions:

First, as with Roe v. Wade, the right in this country will play a long game in chip, chip, chipping away at the ACA until it is a gutted shell. Hopefully progressives in this country already realize this and also understand that a true single payer system like those in most other democracies is the only way to handle healthcare in this country. Supporting single payer healthcare should be the price of admission for all democratic candidates.

Second, despite Justice Alito’s utterances to the contrary, religion will now be a major hammer for the right to attack all that they do not like in this land. More attacks on the ACA on religious grounds, even expect attacks on things like Medicare and Social Security. Can’t be done you say? Just wait.

Third, this really strengthens the control the right wing has on women. Controlling people is one of the goals of corporations. By controlling people they can control things like wages and benefits.

Fourth, where exactly does “religious” freedom end. As with many on the left I find most wars to be avoidable. Can I ask to be exempt from paying taxes that go to war and constant war preparation? This is but a small example of where this could go. No doubt there is still a contingent in this country that is religiously opposed to inter-racial marriage. Religious leaders have already asked that businesses be exempted from an expected executive order banning discrimination against gays on religious grounds. We have lift off.

Fifth, hard not to notice that the five votes for Hobby Lobby came from five older white men all Catholic. In this case as most know contraception is mortal sin in the Catholic Church. Did they purposely impose their religious views as law? In any case as a group they are hardly representative of America as a whole.

Sixth, Hobby Lobby is probably the very epitome of hypocrisy in this case. Apparently their religion say they can’t have anything to do with contraception as part of their pay package, yet by buying most if their merchandise from a country that has abortion and contraception as state policy, they contribute directly to sponsoring abortion and contraception in China. What does their bible say about hypocrites?

To conclude, I offer some words from Justice Ginsburg’s scathing dissent in this case. Dissents in the past have been used as a basis for majority opinions later on. Let us hope that happens here. (From Dana Liebelson at Mother Jones)

“in a decision of startling breadth,” would allow corporations to opt out of almost any law that they find “incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.”

“The exemption sought by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga would…deny legions of women who do not hold their employers’ beliefs access to contraceptive coverage”

“Religious organizations exist to foster the interests of persons subscribing to the same religious faith. Not so of for-profit corporations. Workers who sustain the operations of those corporations commonly are not drawn from one religious community.”

“Any decision to use contraceptives made by a woman covered under Hobby Lobby’s or Conestoga’s plan will not be propelled by the Government, it will be the woman’s autonomous choice, informed by the physician she consults.”

“It bears note in this regard that the cost of an IUD is nearly equivalent to a month’s full-time pay for workers earning the minimum wage.”

“Would the exemption…extend to employers with religiously grounded objections to blood transfusions (Jehovah’s Witnesses); antidepressants (Scientologists); medications derived from pigs, including anesthesia, intravenous fluids, and pills coated with gelatin (certain Muslims, Jews, and Hindus); and vaccinations[?]…Not much help there for the lower courts bound by today’s decision.”

“Approving some religious claims while deeming others unworthy of accommodation could be ‘perceived as favoring one religion over another,’ the very ‘risk the [Constitution’s] Establishment Clause was designed to preclude.”

“The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield.”

Warren on Hobby Lobby

hobby lobby no moral ground

Questions For Candidates In 2014

We have Questions

We have Questions

As we pass Independence Day and inch closer to the heavy political season (it never stops anymore) we need to get ready for the real job of a democracy. The past two years in particular have resulted in gridlock caused by Republican politicians at all levels. This is not what government is about. If those Republican politicians want our vote, they need to answer some questions. Here are some I would love to hear asked and answered honestly, especially by the four Republican candidates for the US House.

1) Do you agree with John Boehner’s action to sue the President?
– Will you join in the lawsuit if elected?
– What are the specific issues (be specific, not “he acts like a king”) for which Mr. Obama should be sued?
– Will you push for impeachment? On what specific grounds?

2) Do you support the SCOTUS ruling in Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius?
– If so, what other issues do you believe should be brought to the SCOTUS on religious grounds?
– Should discrimination against gays based on religious beliefs be allowed for closely held public businesses?

3) What specific legislation will you push to address the inequality in pay and conditions for women?
– Please cite Republican legislative action to address this issue in the past?

4) What specific action or legislation will you propose to address income inequality in this country. Please be ready to explain exactly how your proposal will directly affect the working class poor.

5) On immigration, particularly from Latin American countries. Some in your party have described such immigrants as “drug mules with cantaloupe calves.” Do you agree with this assessment?
– What is your proposal to practically deal with undocumented immigrants? What are the ramifications of your proposal?

6) The cost of college has skyrocketed while government support has fallen to all time lows. Thus the cost of college is out of reach for more and more Americans. Soon America will not have the human resources to maintain its lead in many economic categories. Does the cost of post-secondary education feel about right to you?
– Do you have a proposal to alleviate the crushing burden of debt for students? Please be specific on details and ramifications.

7) If elected will you support the House continuing to bring up legislation to end the ACA?
– If so, what would you propose to replace the ACA? Please be specific on coverage and on how the costs will be covered, especially for the poor.

8) Finally, many Republicans are coming to believe climate change is happening. What is your belief in this area?
– Please give specific documented sources for your supporting arguments.

That is a good start. I would really much rather know what an representative believes before I vote. Don’t you?

Weekend Hodge-Podge

adam smith quote
They Need A Horse Race!
One thing you have to remember going into the silly political ad season is that this is the time of year that make TV stations and networks and those corporations that own them rich. No doubt those with corner offices on upper floors of corporate headquarters care for the most part that Republicans win. But beyond that they care more that all their air time is bought at top dollar.

So what the TV execs want more than anything else is a good old fashioned horse race so that candidates will keep forking over the big bucks to keep the candidates name out there right up to the end.

As Usual, Branstad Lies
Those damn Branstad commercials are on every channel in the universe. I wonder if they are getting them in London or Ottawa? As with anything Branstad, they are a load of lies. Yes we have gained some jobs but nowhere near what he promised. Since I can’t stand to watch his commercials, I can’t say they are lying. However since his administration puts out false numbers I would suspect his commercials do also.

SCOTUS Turns Its Back On Women.
Even the women on the Supreme Court seemed to have turned its back on women. Taking away the 35 foot buffer zone to women’s health clinics in Massachusetts is a hard blow to women’s reproductive rights. Once more the most activist Court makes another argument that it is the worst Court in history. In this case they seemed to think that the protesters free speech rights are somehow impinged if they can’t get right in patients faces to intimidate and harass. They were perfectly free to say whatever they wanted from their 35 foot distance.

I trust this means the end of the so called free speech zones at political functions. Based on this decision, anyone should be able to protest right up to the door of a convention or other meeting. Have at it.

ALEC To Meet To Sell Out America
Just a reminder that the oligarchs of ALEC (a subsidiary of Koch Industries) will be meeting in Dallas on July 30th to decide what they will have their puppet legislators throughout the country do in their state legislatures next winter. If you have a Republican legislator, you have a legislator who owes their allegiance to the oligarchs at ALEC not to their district or state.

Pesky Damned Facts
Jonah Goldberg via Dailykos:
“I supported the war, and I still think the arguments in favor at the time were superior to the arguments against. Alas, the facts on the ground didn’t care about the arguments.”

Portable Death Machines
They kill indiscriminately. Kill your neighbors. Kill your family. Kill yourselves. But do read the roundup of gun deaths weekly at dailykos.com. It is not sad. It is not funny. It is frightening. Don’t want to lose a son or daughter. Stand up against guns.

soul of the republican party

Iowa Women Standing For Wendy Davis

wendy_davis_running_for_governor

wendydavistexas.com

In honor of Rick Perry’s presence in the Hawkeye state this week, let’s all sign and share this letter to Rick Perry for Wendy Davis!

wendydavistexas.com

Rick Perry rubs elbows with the billionaire Koch brothers and their special interest friends, rather than working for Texas families. He appointed an executive from a predatory lending company to the Finance Commission of Texas in charge of cracking down on predatory lenders. He cut billions in education.

Rick Perry is an embarrassment. He has put his own political gain ahead.

Wendy Davis is a leader that will work to make the great state of Texas even greater. Sign up below to stand with Wendy Davis and defeat Perry’s cronyism.

Click here to sign this letter

Click here to view a video of Wendy’s story

Donate to Wendy’s campaign

Protestors: “Sally Mason Is Part Of The Problem”

old capital winterStudents at the University of Iowa are protesting President Sally Mason’s bizarrely insensitive and seemingly uninformed comments about rape and sexual assault.  In an interview with the Daily Iowan on Feb. 18 Mason said “The goal would be to end that, to never have another sexual assault. That’s probably not a realistic goal just given human nature … ”  Sexual assault is human nature?

Five times in the Feb. 18 interview, Mason characterized sexual assault as  a “bad thing” that “happens” to people, not once referring to the act of rape as a crime.

“when it comes to sexual assault and other kinds of bad things that can happen to people, you have to know more about it, we have to understand it, and I think what we’re seeing now is more people being willing to come forward and tell us when something bad happens.”

So, according to Mason, rape and sexual assault is just something bad that happens, implying that it is nobody’s fault. Further, she opines that we need to find a greater understanding about it.  One wonders if she also thinks we need to find a better understanding of other types of crimes.

To be fair, the interviewer’s question was specifically about how the UI was educating people on the topic of sexual assault.  So perhaps she didn’t really mean it like it sounded, but unfortunately the rest of her interview on this topic did nothing to indicate otherwise.

The implication that rape is “human nature” is not only incorrect but highly offensive and dangerous and frankly,  a deplorable way for anyone to characterize a violent crime, particularly a university president who should definitely know better.

Student Response

In response, students organized a respectably attended protest on the Pentacrest and a protest at Mason’s annual presidential lecture (see video and links below).  The Daily Iowan is publishing every letter received on the topic.

A statement was released by Mason on Feb. 20.  Notice how the rhetoric changed. The word crime appears twice in three short sentences.

 “Sexual assault is a terrible crime, one for which there is no excuse. The UI will take all the actions in our power to prevent rapes, to support victims, and to prosecute offenders. Even one sexual assault in our community is too many, and we must confront this together as a community. I am committed to do everything in my power to end this terrible crime on our campus.”

That’s more like it.  Not only is rape now a crime,  it is a terrible crime. We’re making progress! Now may they follow this statement with policy to match.

Bravo UI students for banding together and speaking truth to power!

Click here to read the DI interview with Sally Mason

Click here to view coverage of the pentacrest protest

Click here to read letters to the Daily Iowan in response to Mason’s comments

Officials respond to second day of demonstrations

Video of protest at Mason’s annual lecture on Feb. 24:

Bobby Kaufmann Disappoints Constituent

iowa capitolA disappointing week.  Too many reminders of why I didn’t vote for Bobby Kaufmann last time and won’t next time.

Despite a good bill regarding increases in penalties for animal abuse, and support for increasing the fuel tax in order to maintain our roads, he is still headed the wrong direction on the big items.

Nothing affects our state’s future course more than education.  Education needs to be our first order of business, and be the very first priority on the budget.  The Iowa House failed to invest in Iowa’s future this week.

This past week, Bobby chose to help “enable” the Iowa Taliban agenda.  In a bill that solves absolutely no problems, adds no safety to a private medical procedure, but restricts access to abortion for those most in need and disregards the fundamental rights of half of his district, he has chosen to govern by ideology. Obstructing the freedom to make personal choices about child-bearing gives conservatives a warm fuzzy feeling, without solving any actual problems.  Pretending that fetuses have a right to finish developing into a full term live birth strips rights away from women already fully involved in their lives.

Conservatives are wrong to view abortion as the apex of immorality.  In a time when contraception is safe and reliable,  producing children that you are unprepared to raise well is a far greater sin.

Parents have a moral obligation to prepare properly for child rearing. Responsible child rearing involves knowing what they will need to be taught and provided with to grow into healthy, productive adults.  Children cost money, and “God will provide” is not a financial plan. Sometimes the hard but correct choice is to terminate a pregnancy where the necessary elements for child rearing are not in place yet.

Placing requirements on women such as proving rape or proving health issues is a very slippery slope, and beyond demeaning.

Why does the party of personal freedom and individual rights exempt women from that concept?

Laura Twing lives in Cedar county, with her husband and various animal companions.