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Grassley: Blocking Foreign Service Nominees In Time Of Crisis

May as well be in Iowa cutting grass

May as well be in Iowa cutting grass

As the Republican Party once again reacts to terrorist bombings with loud proclamations of love of country and calls to do nearly anything to protest the citizens when we turn the rock over we see what Republicans are really doing beneath the surface. And what they are really doing is everything they can to undermine the Obama administration. This should hardly be news since this has been their only basic mission since a secret meeting declared congressional war on the Obama administration on Jan. 20th, 2009.

Who can forget Mitch McConnell’s statement that “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

So while declaring themselves patriotic to the hilt, the congressional Republican Party true priorities continue to be opposing Obama at every turn. One of the leaders in this war on Obama has been our own Chuck Grassley. Yep old fumbling, bumbling Chuck with his Iowa twang has been a one man wrecking ball on Obama nominees. We have chronicled Grassley’s obstruction on blogforiowa many times including this recent post

Now with the world on heightened alert and diplomacy at a premium with friend and foe alike, Chuck Grassley uses his lofty seniority and committee assignments to block high ranking nominees to the State Department.

But the Iowa Republican also added a hold on a top State Department nominee, telling leadership that he intends to block Thomas Shannon’s nomination to be the under secretary of political affairs.

Grassley is also continuing his hold on Brian James Egan’s nomination to be a legal adviser for the department, as well as David Malcolm Robinson’s nomination to be assistant secretary for conflict and stabilization operations and coordinator for reconstruction and stabilization.

Grassley has also come under fire from Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who accused the Iowa Republican of wasting taxpayer money trying to bring down Clinton’s presidential campaign.

“Why are nonpartisan public service positions being used as political pawns, especially if they are being blocked just because Senator Grassley doesn’t want Hillary Clinton to be the next president of the United States?” the Nevada Democrat asked from the Senate floor. “How much money will Republicans in Congress waste to try to bring down Hillary Clinton? We don’t know all the numbers.”

Duly note that Grassley had 22 nominees under hold, but he lifted 20 when the light was shined on his obstruction by the Paris bombings. It is a true shame that tragedies such as that are what it takes to make Grassley do his job.

Well, priorities are priorities and playing politics with the State Department to make a Democratic administration look bad and to thwart the election of another Democrat is all in a day’s work for Grassley.

Will Iowans remember Grassley’s obstruction a year from now and elect a senator with the good of the state and the country in mind?

Stop Paul Ryan From Ending Medicare

Dave Loebsack IA02

Dave Loebsack IA02

Message from Congressman Dave Loebsack (D)

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Medicare, a program that has long been a safety net for our seniors who rely on it for their basic healthcare needs.

However, House Republicans, led by Speaker Paul Ryan want to end Medicare as we know it.

The extreme budget they’ve put forward would completely gut this program. This would hurt millions of seniors across the country.

We’ve got to stand up for our seniors now and demand that Medicare be protected.

I’m in Congress to fight for our seniors and to make sure they have the benefits they’ve worked for their entire lives so they can retire with dignity.

Stand with me now and make sure Medicare is protected.


Dave Loebsack

protect medicare

Terrorists Are The Best Friends The Right Wing Ever Had


Bombs Won’t Cut It

By Donald Kaul

When Paris suffered attacks that killed 17 last January — at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket — it responded with great class.

Parisians filled the streets, locked arm-in-arm in solidarity against terrorism. Leaders from throughout Europe (but not, alas, President Barack Obama) joined them in a show of support.

And two days after the demonstration, Socialist Prime Minister Manuel Valls gave a memorable speech to the French National Assembly supporting the government’s declared “war on terrorism” but calling for the nation to maintain its principles of religious tolerance and separation of church and state.

At which point the deputies stood and gave him an ovation, then broke into La Marseillaise. It was a wonderful moment. (The French have a great national anthem and they use it like a sword).

I doubt that moment will be repeated any time soon. The November 13 attacks in Paris ushered the entire world through yet another door, into a darker place.

It is a place of fear. If a handful of lightly armed terrorists can bring one of the world’s great cities to its knees in a single evening, killing 129 and injuring hundreds more, then who among us is safe?

It was, in a sense, more ominous than the 9/11 attacks which, while more costly in blood and treasure, seemed almost unrepeatable. We were caught unawares and took steps to ensure that we wouldn’t be again. The bad guys got lucky.

The Paris attacks demonstrate how naïve that attitude is.

How can we protect ourselves against an insidious, almost invisible army that takes advantage of the best qualities of western society — its openness, its tolerance — to do it grievous harm?

French President François Hollande responded immediately by sending warplanes to bomb ISIS strongholds in Syria. I’m sure they killed some people, maybe even some terrorists. I can understand the response. You have to do something.

But that’s not much of something. Bombs won’t cut it.

The diabolical thing about this enemy is that it doesn’t present much of a target. For all the talk of establishing a caliphate, it doesn’t have a navy or an air force or even artillery worthy of the name. It works in small, secretive networks and kills in numbers greatly disproportionate to its military strength.

We call them terrorists for a reason: They terrify us.

Politically, they’re the best friends the right wing ever had.

French National Front Leader Marine Le Pen, who has long advocated closing the doors to immigration, is having her “I told you so” moment.

As are the anti-immigrant Republicans here. They’re lining up in favor of not allowing Muslim refugees fleeing the conflict in their home country sanctuary in ours. At least two dozen Republican governors have said they would refuse such refugees.

The Democrats, including Obama, have presented a far more reasonable response — not all refugees are terrorists, stay the course, blah-blah — which sounds weak in the heated atmosphere of a presidential campaign.

Even Donald Trump’s lunatic ravings against the invasion of Mexican rapists and drug dealers sound almost reasonable now.

“Here’s the problem,” said Marco Rubio, for once not mentioning that his father was a bartender and his mother was a cleaning lady. “You allow 10,000 people in. And 9,999 of them are innocent people feeling oppression. And one of them is a well-trained ISIS fighter.”

That sort of logic is more appealing now, when we have Islamic militants on our television screens promising to come get us.

So is the dismissal of the revelations of Edward Snowden on the universal surveillance we’re being subjected to. More surveillance? Sounds safer. Bring it on.

The real question is how all of this will affect our elections next year.

Will it inspire a sense of seriousness in the electorate that has been lacking so far? Or will it bend things toward the hardliners who want to hole up in Fortress America?

We’ll see.

OtherWords columnist Donald Kaul lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Medicaid Listening Sessions

medicaidThe Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will be hosting a series of Listening Sessions regarding Iowa’s High Quality Health Care Initiative. The initiative proposes to move Iowa’s delivery of most Medicaid services to a managed care delivery system effective January 1, 2016.

CMS must approve of the State’s proposal to move to a comprehensive Managed Care Delivery system.

There will be one more listening session targeted to Consumers and Advocates.

Consumers and Advocates  [Open to the general public]

November 19th 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm CST

Participant Toll-Free Dial-In Number: 1-800-837-19351-800-837-1935 FREE

Conference ID: 82231506

If you are aware of any individuals or organizations that may benefit from attending an upcoming session, please feel free to forward this invitation to them. To add an email address to the CMS Iowa Outreach contact list, please visit the following link to subscribe:

Although these listening sessions are meant for consumers and providers, they are open to the general public.

Help DFA Elect Progressive Candidates

dean campaignA request from Howard Dean:

I want to thank you all for the fantastic birthday card and all the warm wishes you sent along with it.

I find birthdays to not only be about celebrating but also a time to reflect on where you’ve come from and what you’ve been able to accomplish. I can hardly believe that it has been 35 years since I set out on a quixotic mission to upset big developers’ plans by building a new bike path along Lake Champlain — my very first political victory.

Soon after that victory I ran for State Representative and I knocked on every door — twice! But if you would have told me back then that I would go on to run for President, become Chair of the DNC, and found a million-member organization, I wouldn’t have believed you. I just knew that I needed to stand up and fight for what was right in the moment — and because I found a strong network of support, I found the courage I needed to move on to do much bigger things.

One of my favorite things about Democracy for America is that it offers a network of support to progressive candidates all across the country. No other organization does quite what DFA does — which is why it’s really important to me that DFA continues to grow and succeed.

I would like it if you could celebrate my birthday and all we’ve accomplished together by supporting DFA. Will you chip in $3 or more on my birthday to help DFA build on our shared vision of a people-powered 50 State Strategy?

There are so many inspiring DFA success stories. Take, for example, newly-elected Virginia delegate Jennifer Boysko. Jennifer was the Virginia State Director for my presidential campaign back in the day, and DFA backed her in her first run for office in 2013, as a part of the statewide Purple to Blue effort to flip the legislature.

When Jennifer first got in the race in 2013, polls showed her down by a whopping 16-point margin. DFA staff helped her build her campaign from the ground up, and DFA members across the country made hundreds of calls into her Virginia district.

Two years ago this November, Jennifer lost that election by only 33 votes — a tighter margin than anyone could have imagined when she first jumped in the race.

For some partnerships between candidates and organizations, that might have been the end of the story. But DFA stuck by Jennifer. When she announced that she was going to run for the same seat again this year, DFA was the first to endorse her.

With the on-the-ground support of DFA members and staff, Jennifer ran another fantastic campaign — and this time, on Election Day two weeks ago, Jennifer was elected in a thrilling victory few would have predicted two years ago.

When I suspended my campaign for president, I chose to found DFA because I knew what the amazing network that had built up around my candidacy had done for me, personally and professionally — and I wanted it to be there to support future progressive candidates like Jennifer and so many others.

DFA has been more successful than I could have possibly imagined when it comes to helping progressives run and win — and I want to make sure this asset continues to be available for the next generation of candidates.

Today, on my birthday, will you please pitch in $3 or more to make sure DFA can continue to implement my 50 State Strategy by backing up progressive candidates who run for office — just like I did?

Thank you for all that you do. Together, we are unstoppable.

– Howard

Howard Dean, Founder
Democracy for America

Branstad To Iowans: Be Afraid Of Refugees

branstad2A sad day for Iowa.  Yesterday, Gov. Branstad ordered all state agencies to halt any work on Syrian refugee resettlements immediately, “in order to ensure the security and safety of Iowans” in light of the Paris attacks.

Let’s look at this in a broader context.  More than 32,000 people per year are killed by guns in the United States.  Yet we’re supposed to be afraid of a bunch of refugees because of a terrorist attack in France that while a tragedy, as all violence is, resulted in about the same number of deaths that occur by guns in the U.S. approximately every two days.

But at least Branstad’s approach to keeping out refugees is equal-opportunity rejection.  Jeb! wants a religious test.  Here’s what President Obama has to say about that.


Drake University Democratic Debate

Photo Credit Cedar Rapids Gazette

Photo Credit Cedar Rapids Gazette

The winner in last night’s debate at Drake University’s Sheslow Auditorium was the American people as Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders discussed, and actually debated issues that matter. This is in sharp contrast with the multi-level Republican debates.

Only 700 people had tickets to attend, so I closed the door of my study, put on my headphones and shut down all browsers except the CBS live stream. I took notes using Microsoft Outlook.

It is ironic that Twitter, a debate co-sponsor, was pretty useless once the questioning began. With an avalanche of more than a thousand Tweets per minute, it was more than a person could comprehend, let alone participate effectively in. I opted to listen to the actual debate.

From here, the race is between Clinton and Sanders. Martin O’Malley had his last chance to gain traction in the race, and he whiffed.

One of O’Malley’s campaign taglines is “new leadership.” He failed to demonstrate it last night. When directly asked about his lack of experience in international affairs, O’Malley dodged the question. He won’t break loose from low polling numbers by dodging key questions. Without more support, he lacks a path to win any of the four early states.

As noted previously, it is hard to find fault with O’Malley’s core positions. The trouble is with his narrative. His style of using personal anecdotes, pointing to what he did in Maryland, is part of the reason he isn’t getting traction despite solid Democratic policy positions. O’Malley says the country needs new leadership, but doesn’t provide meaningful evidence to back up his assertion he has that capacity.

Then there were two.

There is a lot to like about both Clinton and Sanders. As with the results of a single poll, there is not as much meaning in a single debate performance as some supporters assert. At the same time, Clinton is the better debater and it showed.

Clinton’s response to the question about her campaign contributions from Wall Street demonstrated her mastery of the debate form. She began with a curious statement about needing to “do more” to regulate Wall Street. She didn’t say the words, but essentially lit the fuse for Sanders and O’Malley to go off on their position of re-instating Glass Steagall. Clinton’s position is re-instating Glass Steagall is not enough, and she was able to frame the discussion on her terms.

Reforming Wall Street and reducing the influence of money in politics is Sanders’ signature issue. It appeared Clinton got Sanders’ goat because he brought Glass Steagall up in the next question even though it wasn’t the topic. As long as there is money in politics (which there will be forever) and presidents appoint financiers from Goldman Sachs and J. P. Morgan Chase to key positions in their administration (which Sanders said he would not do), the appearance of impropriety will exist. Clinton didn’t shake this completely, but defended herself well in the debate.

The other topic where Clinton was able to frame the debate to her advantage was about increasing the minimum wage. Sanders and O’Malley support the Democratic party platform plank to raise minimum wage to $15 per hour. Clinton supports $12 per hour.

In asking the question, Kathie Obradovich of the Des Moines Register gave framing favorable to Clinton, mentioning the concerns of Alan Krueger over raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour. Insiders would have known Clinton’s deviation from the party platform and that her position is partly a response to Krueger. As Clinton pointed out during the debate, Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman agrees with her. While both Sanders and O’Malley piled on Clinton, she maintained the upper hand on this topic.

A couple of people remarked in social media about Sanders’ increasing hoarseness during the two hours. I was reminded of John Kerry having the same issue with losing his voice on the trail in 2004. Kerry made the decision to send running mate John Edwards to an event in Cedar Rapids so he could save his voice for an upcoming debate. It’s insider baseball, but as I listened to Sanders I thought he should have backed off some of his events the previous day to save his vocal chords. He was able to adequately speak, but the hoarseness was a distraction. Clinton was not without fault in this regard. She sounded like she needed a drink of water as her laughter cackled across the stage after her competitors said things she must have thought were outrageous.

Tony Leys of the Des Moines Register made this comment on Twitter:

Some don’t want to hear it, but the Democratic primary debates are about Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada period. While Sanders’ reference to bloated spending on the nuclear weapons complex may provide traction in New Hampshire, Clinton was the only candidate to use the reality of Terry Branstad’s Iowa effectively.

There are two more national debates before the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses.

Electric Car Emissions vs. Gasoline

Thought this would be of interest to folks here: (about 2 minutes)

Rob Hogg: Medicaid Mess And More

Rob Hogg

Rob Hogg

Robb Hogg newsletter Nov.13


Governor Branstad’s current push to privatize Iowa Medicaid has upset many Iowans. Critics say it tries to do too much too fast, and is too disorganized, and does not accomplish any public benefit. Last month, I asked Governor Branstad to show the documentation on how this change would save money without cutting benefits or access to health care. He said he had no documentation.

I hope we can slow down or stop Governor Branstad’s proposal. If you agree, please take a moment today to sign a petition urging a six month delay until July 1, 2016. The petition can be found at

Let’s take time to get this right.


I am attending the Cedar River Watershed Coalition meeting today in Waterloo, where the focus is on urban measures to reduce the risk of future flood damage. Although it has been more than seven years since the Flood of 2008, recent flood damage in South Carolina and Texas underscores the ongoing need for flood preparedness. If you would like to be involved in the Cedar River Watershed Coalition, please contact Mary Beth Stevenson at the Iowa Department of Natural Resources at


As part of a “climate solutions” tour, I visited facilities this week in Cedar Rapids (solar-powered electric vehicle charging stations), Pella (green buildings), Coon Rapids (land management), Carroll (solar-powered green building), Ames (biorenewable research), Decorah (solar power), and Charles City (ethanol plant and wind farm) to highlight the fact that climate solutions work for the environment and for our economy.

We need to act to address climate change, and the good news is we have solutions that work. Please speak up with federal and state elected officials to urge their support for public policy that promotes clean, home-grown renewable energy and other solutions to climate change.


On Wednesday afternoon, November 18, I will be visiting the Independence Mental Health Institute as part of my service as chair of the Senate Government Oversight Committee. It is critical that we have facilities and programs that are working to meet the needs of our most vulnerable Iowans. I look forward to learning more about what the Independence MHI is doing and how it is serving the people of Iowa.

Sunday Funday: The Actress Speaks The Truth Edition

Lawrence eviscerates Republicans

1) The password to access the wifi for journalists covering the Republican debate Tuesday was what?

2) Aung San Suu Kyi appears ready to head the government of what country despite not being elected?

3) Last Saturday a guitar once used by what rock start sold for $2.4 million at auction?

4) The president of what university resigned Monday in response to racial tensions?

5) The Obama administration appealed a negative ruling by the 5th District Court directly to the Supreme Court on what issue?

6) After a long study the Obama administration finally announced that it would killing what international project?

7) Wednesday was the biggest online shopping day in history due to what holiday created by Chinese merchant Ali-Baba?

8) On this date in 1777 our first constitution, known as what, was adopted by the Continental congress?

9) As of Monday what two states bordering Iowa sell medical marijuana products?

10) What professional group filed suit against the Branstad Administration to stop the rush to managed care for Iowa’s medicaid program?

11) Iowa saw some rare November events Wednesday as what ripped across Iowa?

12) The SCOTUS granted certiorari for a case out of Texas concerning what divisive issue Friday?

13) What group of workers went on strike Tuesday in their “fight for $15?”

14) What former German Chancellor and architect of the European currency system died last week?

15) A man was arrested outside the White House fence when he deployed what weapon and fired at the White House?

16) As of March of 2016, Sony will no longer make what recording medium that is has manufactured for 40 years?

17) Joe’s Crab Shack announced it will test what new policy for its workers at 18 of its stores?

18) The announcement of the retirement of Wyoming’s only representative has what former Wyoming senate candidate thinking about running?

19) November 19th, 1863, what speech that becomes one of the basic statements of America is delivered?

20) The Iowa Utilities Board held a very well attended meeting in Boone Thursday concerning what issue?

Uh-oh! Big trouble in Paris! Pay attention!


1) stophillary

2) Myanmar aka Burma

3) John Lennon

4) Missouri

5) His executive order on immigrants

6) the Keystone pipeline

7) “singles day” 11/11

8) Articles of Confederation

9) Minnesota and Illinois. But they only sell to citizens of their states

10) the Iowa Hospital Association

11) strong storms including tornados

12) access to safe abortions

13) fast food workers

14) Helmut Schmidt

15) a slingshot

16) beta-max tapes

17) pay it’s workers a decent hourly wage and no tipping

18) Liz Cheney

19) The Gettysburg Address

20) the Bakken pipeline.

The glide path to the holiday season is on. Adjust lives accordingly.