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This Week On The Fallon Forum: Gas Tax, Pipelines, Online Gambling, Billboards

fallon forumDear Friends,

One week from today, I set-out on a 400-mile walk along the proposed path of the Bakken Oil Pipeline – perhaps walking across fields and streams, but more often traversing road and bridges.

Speaking of which . . . “Money to repair road and bridges.” That’s the mantra proponents of increasing the gas tax – and their compliant lackeys in the media – repeat ad nauseum. It’s a sound bite that, no doubt, tests well with focus groups. Sure, who doesn’t want pot holes filled? Sure, who doesn’t want bridges that won’t collapse?

But come on. A lot of this money will be spent widening existing highways and building new ones. The road lobby is the most powerful political force in the state. Given all the jobs associated with the industry and the huge amount of money contributed to political campaigns, the road lobby usually gets what it wants.

But what’s really in the best interest of Iowa, both now and in the future? Yes, of course we need enough money to “repair roads and bridges.” But as the imperative to reduce fossil fuel consumption becomes more urgent, we’ll need to move away from the present monolithic transportation infrastructure to one offering greater diversity and a smaller environmental footprint.

We’ll talk about this on today’s Fallon Forum. Also, Dave Simon with Animal Protection and Rescue League discusses the controversial “Go Vegan” billboards.

We talk with Peter Thorne about the public health impacts of climate change. Peter heads the Department of Occupational & Environmental Health at UI’s Environmental Health Sciences Research Center.

Also, sports betting legal in Iowa? Online gambling legal in Iowa? There’s a bill in the Iowa Legislature to open the door to both. Rep. Dan Kelley talks with us and explains why he wants to stop the “fantasy sports” bill.

Tune-in Monday, 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. CST on KDLF 1260 AM or online. Join the conversation by calling (515) 528-8122. You also can hear the Fallon Forum on KHOI 89.1 FM (Ames) at 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday and on KPVL 89.1 FM (Postville) at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday. Thanks!

Is Iowa Prepared For A Megadrought?

State Senator Joe Bolkcom (D-Iowa City)

State Senator Joe Bolkcom (D-Iowa City)

State Senator Joe Bolkcom, member of the natural resources and environment committee, spoke last Tuesday at the capitol about environmental issues.

“Is there anything related to the environment you would like to see covered in greater detail?” I asked.

“There are some questions around megadroughts coming mid-century,” he said. “Have we dedicated enough attention and resources to protecting underground water systems?”

Bolkcom pointed to a number of concerns: recent defunding of the Department of Natural Resources underground water monitoring system; gaining an understanding of the water withdrawal rate for ethanol plant operations; a needed review of policy by the Environmental Protection Commission; a review of DNR regulations pertaining to water permitting; the need for a geological survey of water resources, the Silurian and Jordan aquifers specifically; and the impact of water usage by data centers such as Google and Facebook. He had given the matter considerable thought.

“Should we have other thoughts about the Jordan and Silurian aquifers as we head toward 2050?” Bolkcom asked. “Today, once an industrial user secures a permit, they can withdraw as much water as they want.”

There were more questions than answers during my brief time with Bolkcom, but his thrust was that Iowa needs to do more to ensure resiliency during extended drought conditions.

It is difficult to forget the severe drought of 2012. Governor Branstad called a special meeting of agriculture groups in Mount Pleasant that July. (Read my coverage of that meeting here.) Climate change was completely absent from the discussion, even if farmers had to deal with its enhancement of drought conditions. To paraphrase the reaction, farmers planned to plow the crop under, capitalize the loss, and plant again the following year.

What if the drought extended more than a season or two? What if it lasted for decades? According to a study released this month that’s what we can expect.

“Droughts in the U.S. Southwest and Central Plains during the last half of this century could be drier and longer than drought conditions seen in those regions in the last 1,000 years,” according to a Feb. 12 press release issued in conjunction with a new study led by NASA scientists.

“Natural droughts like the 1930s Dust Bowl and the current drought in the Southwest have historically lasted maybe a decade or a little less,” said Ben Cook, climate scientist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University in New York City, and lead author of the study. “What these results are saying is we’re going to get a drought similar to those events, but it is probably going to last at least 30 to 35 years.”

When Bolkcom referred to megadroughts, this is what he meant.

The potential exists for megadroughts more severe than any in recent history, according to the study published in Science Advances by Cook, Toby R. Ault and Jason E. Smerdon.

“Future drought risk will likely exceed even the driest centuries of the Medieval Climate Anomaly (1100–1300 CE),” the authors wrote. “The consistency of our results suggests an exceptionally high risk of a multidecadal megadrought occurring over the Central Plains and Southwest regions during the late 21st century, a level of aridity exceeding even the persistent megadroughts that characterized the Medieval era.”

Whether Bolkcom’s questions find answers is uncertain, however he is alone among legislators I spoke with in asking them. He was correct that members of the public haven’t engaged on something the legislature should be taking up during its 86th General Assembly.

Progress Iowa Announces The Academy Awards of Extreme Iowa


And the Oscars go to…Branstad, Ernst, Upmeyer, Blum and King *Updated Source Citations Below*

Des Moines, Iowa — Tonight, stars and celebrities will honor the best in movies over the past year. Today, Progress Iowa announced the winners of the 2015 Academy Awards of Extreme Iowa, in order to recognize and hold accountable Iowa’s most extreme politicians.

“These politicians represent the far right in Iowa, and have earned the dubious distinction of the 2015 Academy Awards of Extreme Iowa,” said Matt Sinovic, executive director of Progress Iowa. “Unfortunately there were a number of potential award winners, but from underfunding Iowa schools to embarrassing our state on a national stage, these five are by far the most deserving.”

This year’s Academy Awards of Extreme Iowa are presented to…

Terry Branstad, in The Clarinda Shutdown: for worst denial of public input

After proposing to close mental health institutes in Clarinda and Mt. Pleasant without legislative input, Governor Terry Branstad received a strong rebuke from Republican Representative Dave Heaton: “I think the governor is violating the budgetary process,” Heaton says. “He’s making a unilateral decision without input from the legislature…He’s saying: ‘I just want to close ‘em.’ And that’s not right.” [Source: Radio Iowa]

Linda Upmeyer in The K-12 Disaster: for worst performance on behalf of Iowa Schools

Iowa House Republicans, led by Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer, are sticking with their inadequate proposal to fund Iowa schools at a 1.25% increase, which will lead to Iowa being ranked 40th in the country in per-student spending. [Source: Cedar Rapids Gazette  ]

Joni Ernst, in SOTU Response: for worst performance on a national stage

During her response to the State of the Union, newly elected Senator Joni Ernst embarrassed herself and Iowans on the national stage. Ernst refused to offer a single new policy idea, and instead spent her time spinning yarns and telling stories that earned her ridicule from local and national media. [Sources: Cedar Rapids Gazette, The New Yorker, Salon]

Steve King, lifetime achievement: for most shameful congressman in Iowa history

Congressman Steve King has consistently embarrassed Iowans during his time in office. From comparing immigrants to dogs, calling immigrants drug smugglers, and saying he doesn’t expect to meet gay people in heaven, King has a long track record of shameful statements that do not truly represent Iowa values. [Sources: Politico, ThinkProgress]

Rod Blum, in Strange Bedfellows: for best support of an extreme agenda

After winning election and campaigning as a moderate, Congressman Rod Blum cast his first vote in support of Steve King’s choice for Speaker of the House. [Source: The Des Moines Register] Blum appears to be following in lock step with King’s extreme agenda during his first months in office.

Sunday Funday – Only A Week Left In February

feed the cat first then do the puzzle

feed the cat first then do the puzzle

I can almost hear the happy dancing starting. March is but a week away. March is associated with Spring and warm weather. February is associated with all the bad things we associate with winter. What a difference a day can make in our outlook.

Were you paying attention?

1) What former Republican leader claimed that president Obama “did not love his country?”

2) Since that remark, which current Republican presidential candidates have condemned that comment?

3) Millions of citizens may be forced to flee Sao Paulo, Brazil because of what crisis?

4) “What Pet Should I Get” is a newly discovered manuscript from what extremely popular writer?

5) Think hard folks. Today is what great American’s birthday?

6) A major vote on a proposed rule is scheduled for Thursday. What federal agency is holding the vote and what is the subject of the vote?

7) A bill was submitted in the Iowa senate Monday to allow for possession of what substance?

8) Walmart astounded nearly everyone Wednesday when they announced what?

9) What company had a major failure in London with its promotion KKK Wednesdays?

10) 11.4 million. That’s how many people signed up for what?

11) Judge Andrew S. Hanen ruled in favor of 26 states that challenged what administration policy, thus putting its implementation on hold?

12) In Ankeny, a kindergarten teacher was arrested for what odd behavior in a classroom?

13) John Boehner admitted on Fox News last week that he bypassed the White House on inviting Netanyahu to address. Why did he do so?

14) “You Don’t Own Me” a very early feminist type song, was originally recorded by what 60s singer who died last week?

15) Supporters of marriage equality were disappointed last week when a federal judge delayed ruling on a marriage equality suit in what state?

16) A wave shuddered through the auto industry when it was learned that what company was exploring entering the automobile field?

17) Elon Musk, the chair of what major tech company, announced that his company was close to a battery that could hold a charge for several days and even power a house?

18) A 69 year old Viet Nam war vet froze to death in Michigan after what happened?

19) Authorities in Michigan announced Wednesday that a woman who died of a gunshot wound on New Year’s Day killed herself when the gun accidentally discharged while she was doing what?

20) A meeting between what two women in December was revealed Tuesday sparking much speculation?

Why hasn’t some restaurant come up with an ice cream dish called the “polar vortex?”


1) Rudy Giuliani

2) so far, just Marco Rubio. Guess it is OK with the others?

3) drought causing lack of drinking water

4) Dr. Suess – I didn’t say ‘living’ did I?

5) George Washington

6) The FCC is voting on net neutrality

7) medical cannabidiol oil. Folks can be prescribed it legally, but can’t obtain or possess it legally

8) A major raise in their minimum pay for their employees

9) Krispy Kreme donuts (Krispy Kreme Klub)

10) the ACA this year (so far)

11) the new immigration policy

12) she was arrested for public into when she was discovered with two empty beer cans and four full ones

13) because he didn’t want Obama to interfere with his interference of foreign policy

14) Leslie Gore

15) Nebraska

16) Apple

17) Tesla

18) his gas was shut off in the middle of January

19) adjusting her bra holster. She shot herself in the eye.

20) Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton.

Anyone feel like some cherry pie?

No Funding For Schools; No Taxes On Some Corporations

Iowa Fiscal Partnership

It surely is a strange situation when we have our Republican legislators tell us out of one side of their mouths that there is no money for Iowa schools to maintain the status quo, yet from the other side of their mouth the can tout all the tax cuts they have garnered for their rich contributors. Once again, Iowa Fiscal Partner brings this to light. Once more I suspect that few will read the report and fewer still will do anything about it.

IOWA CITY, Iowa (Feb. 11, 2015) — More companies are benefiting from a lucrative tax subsidy that permits large, profitable corporations to get checks from the state without paying any Iowa income tax.

The latest annual report from the Department of Revenue on the use of the Research Activities Credit (RAC) shows that 248 companies claimed $51 million from the program in 2014, one-third more than the highest number of companies in the last five years.

Most of the credit claims — $34.8 million, or 68 percent — were paid out as checks, not as tax reductions.

“Most notable is that Iowa continues to give a lot of money to companies that aren’t paying income tax. There were 181 companies that received RAC checks from the state because their tax credits exceeded their income tax liability,” said Mike Owen, executive director of the nonpartisan Iowa Policy Project in Iowa City, part of the Iowa Fiscal Partnership.

“The $35 million that went to those 181 companies could have provided 1 percent supplemental state aid for public schools, or it could have gone to other public services, if it had been part of budget discussions. But the state does this kind of spending outside the budget process.”

The report, released Wednesday, also shows:
— Only 16 companies — or 6.5 percent — claimed 83 percent of the benefits and at least 75 percent of the checks.
— Those 16 companies each had at least $500,000 in claims, totaling over $42 million in 2014.
— The top five companies benefiting from the credit have been the largest beneficiaries over the last five years: Rockwell Collins, Deere & Co., Dupont, John Deere Construction and Monsanto.

“Those are highly profitable companies. We need to be asking whether it makes sense, when school budgets are tight and enforcement of environmental and workplace laws are weak, to be subsidizing these businesses to do research that they already would have to do, and can afford to do on their own,” Owen said.

Owen noted a special tax credit review panel appointed in 2009 came back in 2010 with many recommendations to curtail spending on business tax credits — including elimination of the so-called “refunds” of the research credit.

Rockwell Collins was the biggest corporate beneficiary in 2014, with $11.7 million in claims, followed by Deere at $9.4 million and Dupont at almost $6.9 million.

checks to corporations in Iowa

Does anyone besides me think that giving money to corporations is a very bad way for Iowa to spend taxpayer dollars? This goes against everything I ever learned about democracy, and also seems to go against everything I hear the right say about government

Finding A New World? Harder Than Some Think!

treating your home like we treat the earth
Tip of the hat to www.dailykos/comics

As some of you may have read here Thursday Iowa is in the process of “studying” allowing the Bakken Oil to build a pipeline across Iowa. Minnesota is also looking at a pipeline from North Dakota crossing their land.

Rivers in West Virginia have had all sorts of chemicals and sludge dumped into them as though they were corporate toilets. Yet even with all that the West Virginia legislature is discussing rolling back environmental provisions even further.

Republicans have been targeting the Environmental Protection Agency from the day it was conceived by, oddly enough, Richard Nixon’s Administration. While crying about environmental laws in this country, corporations take their processes to countries with few laws so they can pollute freely over there.

One of the world’s largest cities is running out of water due to climate change, a condition many on the right refuse to acknowledge.

Oklahoma now has daily tremors, a condition that did not exist before fracking. Across the country we see many youtube videos of folks lighting their tap water on fire thanks to fracking.

In Iowa the water works in Des Moines is resorting to the courts to try to force the sate or county governments to enforce some standards on nitrates.

After many years companies are finally slowly taking micro beads out of cleansing products after these products had done much damage to fish and other aquatic wildlife.

And of course we are approaching the 5 year anniversary of the huge oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (here is a story on the anniversary last year). Over the years the effects of the spill have slowly faded from the collective memory. The perpetrators have slowly been released from paying for the damages they caused. And projects with huge potential damage are in the works or being planned with little thought toward recovery in the case of problems. Call me old and cranky, but like many I don’t think that a company or a person should leave an area in worse shape than it was before they came. At the very least it should look like no one was there.

The earth is closing in on some tipping points. We may already be too late to reverse climate change with all the feared effects of wild weather and drought. Overpopulation has put a huge stress on earth’s resources. But some of the greatest stresses that the earth must endure are those put on it by industrial polluters. Using the skies, the rivers and the oceans as their toilets they have endangered much of the life on earth and their own species.

It is like they believe there is some kind of an escape hatch, some type of a new America that they can run from the mess they have made. News flash folks: they can’t and neither can we. The earth is full. There are no undiscovered lands on the earth. There are no “nearby” planets that can sustain life. There are no remote and undiscovered planets that could sustain our type of life. Even if there were planets we knew of, how would we get there?

Some subscribe to a theory that a supreme being will swoop down and make it all good. Aside from some mythological books written in the iron age there is no proof nor any real expectation that such will happen.

What we are left with then is humanity’s collective desire to survive on the one world we have and the only world we will have into the foreseeable future. Few want to see their children or grandchildren suffer. People will sacrifice today for their posterity. Our forefathers and mothers did so. Before we have pipelines we need real plans for clean up and restoration. Resources (money) for such restoration must come from those who stand to gain from such projects and not from the taxes of the citizens.

But our political systems worldwide are geared to serve those who have money and power. This has always been true to some degree, but the Supreme Court took the lid off a few years back wight the Citizens United v. FEC decision. Now we find power pretty much fully controlled by those with money.

One thing for sure. No one dies from a spill of sunlight.

Students Deliver 7,000+ Signatures To Governor Branstad

On February 18th, 2015, nursing students from Iowa Wesleyan College in Mount Pleasant, escorted by State Senator Rich Taylor, delivered a petition with over 7,000 signatures to Governor Terry Branstad’s office, asking the Governor not to close the Mount Pleasant Mental Health Institute.

Bakken Oil Pipeline Update

Bakken Pipeline Proposed RouteThere has been a lot of news about the Dakota Access Pipeline (aka Bakken Oil Pipeline) during the last three months. Where does the project stand? Here’s a Blog for Iowa update based on information gathered this week.

On Jan. 20, Dakota Access, LLC, an Energy Transfer Company, filed its petition for a hazardous liquid pipeline permit with the Iowa Utilities Board in Docket No. HLP-2014-0001 according to Donald Tormey, IUB spokesperson.

After the petition has been fully reviewed by board staff and is determined to be sufficiently in order, an order will be issued by the board setting the date for a public hearing.

“Due to the size of this project, the petition review process will take considerable time and there is no certain way to predict an exact hearing date,” Tormey said. “When a hearing date is established, it will be posted on the Board’s hearing and meeting calendar on the IUB website.”

During a meeting with state Senator Joe Bolkcom (D-Iowa City) Tuesday, he said a bill has been introduced into the legislature to increase the amount of liability insurance for companies seeking to pursue large projects such as the Bakken Oil Pipeline. State Rep. Bobby Kaufmann (R-Wilton) said he is seeking House support for a similar bill.

Wally Taylor and Pam Mackey Taylor, representing the Iowa Chapter of the Sierra Club, were at the capitol soliciting signatures on a letter to the IUB opposing approval of the Dakota Access project. The draft letter cited four reasons for opposition. The pipeline would provide no benefit to Iowans, landowners would be forced to give up their land by eminent domain, pipelines leak, and the pipeline will further enable this country’s addiction to oil.

A new pipeline will delay the U.S. transition to clean and renewable energy and more fuel-efficient vehicles according to the Sierra Club.

The period for filing comments, objections and letters of support is still open according to Tormey. Anyone seeking to file objections, comments, and letters of support in this docket may do so by using the Iowa Utilities Board’s Electronic Filing System (EFS), citing the docket number, and clicking on the “Submit Filing” tab and following all instructions to log-in as a guest. Persons lacking computer access may file written comments by mailing them to the Iowa Utilities Board, Executive Secretary, Docket No. HLP-2014-0001, 1375 E. Court Ave., Rm 69, Des Moines, Iowa 50319-0069

The direct link for electronic submissions is here. To view other filings, click here.

Democrats Must Campaign On Progressive Values


Taking control of the Senate and increasing their majority in the House, Republicans swept the election, largely by tying Democrats to negative messaging around President Obama. Accepting the GOP message framework, Senate Democratic candidates like Alison Lundergan-Grimes, Mark Pryor, and Mark Udall took the bait. The Democratic Party failed to offer compelling economic alternatives — in many cases running as pseudo-conservatives — and suffered a drubbing as a result.

But there were progressive victories, in ballot initiatives for raising the minimum wage, legalizing marijuana, and mandating paid sick leave, and in races where Democrats were not afraid to stand on populist principles. Chief among them were Senators Al Franken, Jeff Merkley, and Gary Peters, whose races had all been considered up-for-grabs and were won with double-digit margins. Franken defended healthcare and banking reforms; Merkley spoke of the “commonsense battle between the 1% and the 99%;” and Peters supported capping student loan interest rates and expanding the social safety net.

In Philadelphia at the Progressive Congress, the annual summit of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, The Undercurrent spoke with Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI 2) about the path forward for the Democratic Party in the wake of its historic losses last year, and the CPC’s role in spurring a turn-around.


Republicans Attempt To Beat Back Net Neutrality Rules

Democracy for AmericaAction Alert from

“Net Neutrality Opponents Go To War.”

That was the headline of Huffington Post’s Net Neutrality article on Thursday — and it hits the nail on the head. Corporate internet providers and their allies in Congress are using every scare tactic they can think of to stop the FCC from reclassifying broadband.

Just look at the crazy lies the telecom industry’s most reliable friends in Congress are telling:

  • Sen. John Thune, Republican chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, called reclassification “a power grab for the federal government.
  • Sen Rand Paul sent a scare letter to his supporters warning that “President Obama and the FCC are going to take over the internet.”
  • Sen. Ted Cruz is calling the reclassification of broadband “a pernicious threat.”

This loud, frenzied rush to make Net Neutrality sound scary is no accident. Right now, pro-corporate Republicans in the House and the Senate are launching phony investigations of the FCC and the White House designed to make the FCC nervous . They want to drive up support for industry-backed legislation that would create huge loopholes in Net Neutrality protections.

The FCC will vote on whether or not to reclassify broadband on Thursday, February 26. We need to send a loud and clear message to Congress that they need to stop trying to scare the FCC out of doing the right thing.

Time is running out. Please read what our founder, Gov. Howard Dean, said below and then sign his DFA petition telling Congress not to mess with the FCC on Net Neutrality.

Thanks for fighting back. We’re not going to let AT&T and Verizon win this time.

– Karli

Karli Wallace Thompson, Campaign Manager
Democracy for America

And now a word from Howard Dean..

Last week was a great week for those of us who care about Net Neutrality. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced that he will ask the FCC to reclassify broadband as a utility — just like tens of thousands of Democracy for America members, including me, asked him to do.

This is a huge step in the fight for a permanently free and open internet — the kind of internet that allowed us to build Democracy for America together and will empower future generations to take online organizing to the next level.

But our fight to secure real Net Neutrality isn’t finished yet.

Some members of Congress are already pushing for telecom-friendly legislation that would strip the FCC of the power to reclassify broadband. They’re pitching it as a potential “bi-partisan compromise” on Net Neutrality — even though the FCC already has all the power it needs to protect the internet.

And just a few days ago, a few corporate-friendly House Republicans launched an investigation to determine if the White House had “improper influence” over the FCC’s proposal — a clear attempt to make this a partisan issue and intimidate the FCC.

We’re closer than we’ve ever been to winning a truly free and open internet for the long term. We can’t let the shenanigans of a few members of Congress and their corporate friends jeopardize this potential victory at the last minute.

Tell Congress: We don’t need investigations, and we don’t need new legislation. We need you to step back and let the FCC protect Net Neutrality.

Telecom companies like Verizon were never going to take regulation like this sitting down. They’re already threatening to attack reclassification in court if the FCC approves it.

Over the coming weeks, lobbyists from the big corporate internet providers are going to do everything they can to scare Congress into supporting legislation that would tie the FCC’s hands and leave open loopholes that would allow them to create slow lanes and fast lanes on the internet.

Your representatives are hearing from Verizon and AT&T right now. Let’s make sure they’re also hearing from voters like us who care about the internet. Sign my petition telling Congress not to meddle with the FCC on Net Neutrality now.

Thank you for helping save the internet.

– Howard

Gov. Howard Dean, Founder
Democracy for America