We didn’t read Doak’s piece because of cancelling the Des Moines Register after they endorsed Mitt for President and their chief political reporter mistook a paid political pundit for a news source. But this is a great letter to the editor that a friend of ours found and posted on Facebook.
Richard Doak had an excellent column on the demise of Iowa’s rural communities [“Where Are We Headed?”, April 28]. However, he neglected a very important factor: the proliferation of hog factories.
We purchased our acreage some 35 years ago. Since then, seven farmsteads within 1 1/2 miles have been abandoned, most with groves and buildings bulldozed and fences pulled. These families supported our schools, churches and main street businesses.
Five hog factories have replaced them, with more likely to come, as they tend to cluster. The resulting odors and emissions are health hazards to neighbors, and property values are affected. In too many cases, waste is over-applied, spread up to creek banks and across waterways.
There are currently over 6,000 hog confinements in Iowa. Iowa law opened the flood gates in 1995, and nothing has been done since to slow or regulate the industry. Efforts are continuously made to weaken existing regulations. The industry essentially controls our Legislature. Our air, water and rural communities will continue to be the big losers, and as rural communities diminish, so does their political voice.
— D.G. Partridge, Wall Lake
In a world that seems to give us little but scary news any more the story of the young women being rescued from captivity in Cleveland was indeed great news. Three young women that had disappeared as much as a decade ago returned to their families. Certainly this is only the beginning of a new story and no doubt there will be some trauma to their readmission to society. But this can’t possibly be anything near like what they and their families have been through. We wish them our best and we truly wish that every disappearance story ended with the victim still alive. It is hell for their families for sure.
Squeeze those kids every day and be sure to let them know they are loved. And try your best to always know where they are.
Health Spending Slows Dramatically
Little noted in the main stream media is that the pace of health care spending has slowed dramatically over the past couple years. This could mean that the disastrous calculations for programs such as Medicare are way off. Such calculations were based on double digit growth forever. We are currently flatlining on medical spending growth and it looks like a trend. Read it here and be sure to read the links in the article.
Elizabeth Warren: Student Loans At Banker’s Rates
Well look here – here is a United State Senator who is willing to have our country bet on its future rather than trying to starve our future. Elizabeth Warren’s first bill will give loans to students at the extremely low rates that the Fed loans money to banks at. This sounds almost like the same concept that drove the first GI bill. We have large group of young people who lives are being screwed with. We have major major needs in this country. We need those youngsters to get educated and not be put into debt for the rest of their lives. Then we need to take on the projects that will finally push the US back into the world leadership in so many areas where we have given it up through terrible management during the Bush years. This is a good start.
Grassley Offers 77 Amendments To Immigration Bill
Can he personally stop the flood that has already happened by clogging the hole up with paper? Chuck, did anyone tell you that the reason many of these folks are here is because the captains of industry were hiring them at low wages to bust unions? I am betting none of your amendments deal with this problem. These are the guys that line your pocket with “campaign contributions” and it has always been illegal. You are becoming a caricature, Chuck. A caricature of the totally out of touch rich politician who has no idea what goes on in his state.
The Dow’s At What?
An online advertisement really made me chuckle last week. As the Dow is breaking yet another barrier, a little online ad informs me that the rich people are selling all their stock because the economy is in the worst shape ever. Huh?
And while no one was looking, our deficits are decreasing dramatically. Unfortunately the insane austerity policy will probably stop that trend. We need to get Republicans out of the way so we can let the adults run things for at least a couple years before the next election. Too bad the house districts are so gerrymandered that Republicans can lose the conglomerate total vote for the house and still get an overwhelming majority.
One of the biggest mysteries around our house is just when our anniversary is. I know it is sometime in the month of May, but every year I get an indication that my wife expects I should be just a bit more exact. This is quite a challenge she poses, often leaving me in a quandary on how to track this elusive date down while at the same time keeping the mannerisms of a gentleman who is on top of his game.
Well, I asked you all to help and no one volunteered a date, so I had to take another direction. I kind of back channeled a question to one of our daughters and got an answer. So on the 18th we will be going out to celebrate our 39th anniversary. I should really write this down someplace.
Were you paying attention last week? Yet another week full of interesting news and followups. Here we go!
1) Clean up at the factory that collapsed in Bangladesh continues. So far approximately how many have died to the nearest 100?
2) What is the estimated cost per garment that would have to be charged to bring all garment factories in Bangladesh up to building codes?
3) What company announced a major economic initiative in Iowa?
4) Hard to ignore what happened in Cleveland. Two men came over to help Amanda Berry break out her captors house. Can you name them?
5) On May 2nd which state’s house of representatives passed a bill making an attempt to implement the ACA illegal (nullification)?
6) Delaware was the 11th and Minnesota seems poised to be the 12th state to do what?
7) Mike Huckabee claimed this would lead to the impeachment of Barack Obama. What is it?
8) Which state’s Supreme Court ruled that using public money for school vouchers was illegal?
9) With jobs, infrastructure, climate change and all sorts of other urgencies in this country, next week John Boehner will schedule yet another vote on what?
10) Elizabeth Warren will introduce a bill lowering interest rates for what segment of the population?
11) The CO2 in the atmosphere (is very close to) just passed what significant milestone?
12) Republicans are trying to kill the immigration bill with poison pill amendments. Which senator led the way filing 77 of the 300 amendments?
13) The Obama Administration released information on the costs of comparable hospital procedures across. Did procedure costs vary little or vary widely across the country?
14) “If you link Watergate and Iran-Contra together and multiply it maybe by 10 or so, you’re going to get in the zone where __________ is.” What incalculable horror is our great congressman Steve King talking about?
15) “… dealing with the long-term structural spending problem we have frankly is at the core of it. But we also know we can’t cut our way to prosperity.” Wow – some common sense on the economy! Who made this very lucid statement Friday?
I usually start shopping for Christmas on Dec. 23, so shopping for our anniversary begins next Friday!
Here are some answers:
1) last I heard right at 1000
2) about 10 cents
3) Mid American Energy announced a $1.9 Billion wind energy expansion.
4) Angelo Cordero and Charles Ramsey
5) South Carolina
6) Pass Marriage Equality. Minnesota looks to join Iowa and 10 others Monday.
9) Boehner has scheduled the 35th vote to end Obamacare next week.
10) Student loans – she wants them to be the same as banks get from the Fed (currently 0.75%)
11) 400 PPM – 350 PPM is considered the stable we don’t want to exceed.
12) Iowa’s own Charles Grassley
13) Costs of comparable procedures varied widely across the country and even within metro areas.
14) Benghazi. King has seldom exaggerated or lied during his career.
15) John Boehner. No doubt this one will really come back to bite him from the tea party group.
Did you thank a teacher this week?
Since 1984, the first full week in May is a special time to honor our teachers and celebrate their outstanding contributions. Teachers play a key role in student success, and sometimes a simple “thanks” is all a teacher needs to feel valued.
Teacher Appreciation Week, May 6-10, is the perfect time to thank current or former teachers for their sacrifices and support for our students. Teaching takes dedication, hard work, skills and intelligence, but it also requires the ability to strike a balance between discipline and freedom, to encourage individuals while considering what is best for the class.
Schoolchildren and parents can show appreciation for their teachers by sharing kind words or a special card. During Teacher Appreciation Week, students may also get the chance to learn about the daily routine of their teachers and what kind of work goes into preparing for a school day.
ENSURING BEST CARE FOR IOWA VETERANS
Iowans who have served and sacrificed for our freedom deserve the highest quality care we can offer. That’s a top priority for all legislators, regardless of party.
Unfortunately, new allegations from long-time and former employees at the Iowa Veterans Home (IVH) in Marshalltown raise questions about the safety and environment at this state facility.
A recent Marshalltown Times-Republican editorial stated that: “The veterans who call IVH home have earned the right to live in their home free from the fear of intimidation and bullying and the workers there should not have to walk on egg shells, fearful of losing their jobs or being harassed in an intimidating manner.”
Those allegations and others were the subject of a special meeting of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee this week. Legislators heard from a dozen speakers, including Commandant David Worley. Most, including a long-term care ombudsman with the Iowa Department of Aging who has worked with Veterans Home residents, reported serious concerns. It was also noted that more than 40 employees—an unusually high number—have resigned in the last two years, many with decades of service at the home.
Before the meeting, Governor Terry Branstad said he stood “wholeheartedly” behind Worley. The day after the meeting, however, the Governor appointed Jodi Tymeson, executive director of the Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs, to a newly created position as Chief Operating Officer at the Veterans Home. General Tymeson will work directly under Worley and oversee the departments, staff and day-to-day activities.
This is a positive first step toward restoring confidence at the Iowa Veterans Home and ensuring the proper treatment of veterans and IVH employees.
For video of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee meeting, go to http://tinyurl.com/Iowa-Veterans-Home.
To read the full editorial from the Marshalltown Times Republican, go to http://tinyurl.com/IVHleader.
MAKING COURT SERVICES MORE ACCESSIBLE TO IOWANS
Chief Justice Mark Cady said in his State of the Judiciary address in January that “Iowans expect their government to operate a full-time, full-service and efficient court system.”
The Legislature is working to provide that full-time access to justice with court funding in the Judicial Branch Budget. Senate File 442, approved with strong bipartisan support, provides close to $168 million to our court system, a $5.6 million increase over last year’s appropriation. The extra money will allow the courts to hire staff that provides much-needed services to Iowans, such as clerk of court offices and juvenile court services.
Budget cuts have left 21 clerk offices open only part-time. This makes it difficult for Iowans to take care of court-related business during regular business hours. Citizens shouldn’t find a closed sign on the door when they show up to apply for a protective order, access legal documents or pay a bill.
This year’s funding should help Iowa’s highly respected courts improve staffing and services to ensure we continue to have one of the most responsive court systems in the nation.
SOLVING CRIMES, EXONERATING THE INNOCENT
DNA collected in the context of minor crimes can yield major benefits in public safety. DNA can help solve crimes faster, avoid costly trials and save taxpayer money.
In 2006, New York extended its DNA database. Since then, DNA taken from those who commit petty larceny has helped solve about 1,000 crimes, including murders, sexual assaults, robberies and burglaries. In addition, research shows that those who commit property crimes—theft, arson, vandalism—have a high chance of reoffending, and their crimes and violence rates often escalate.
That’s why law enforcement and the Iowa Attorney General asked the Legislature to require more criminals to submit DNA samples. With their help, we put together House File 527, a bipartisan bill that requires certain defendants convicted of an aggravated misdemeanor to submit a DNA sample for profiling. This bill now awaits the Governor’s signature.
CUSTOMER FRIENDLY SERVICE FOR DRIVERS
The Legislature has approved changes that will make getting your Iowa driver’s license a lot faster and easier.
SF 224, signed into law May 1, lets Iowa veterans get their veteran status marked on their driver’s license or state ID when they go in for a duplicate rather than waiting until they come up for renewal, which could be years away. It also makes licenses good for 8 years for Iowans between the ages of 18 and 74. In addition, Iowans who voluntarily give up their driver’s license for age-related or medical reasons may get a free state ID.
HF 355, approved by the House and Senate, will make it possible for most Iowans to renew their driver’s license online every other time it comes up for renewal. That means no waiting in lines, no driving long distances and the convenience of renewing your license 24/7. This is a fiscally smart move that will free up $1.2 million for fixing our roads and bridges, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency.
Those who will not be able to renew online include those under the age of 18, those over the age of 72, and those with serious vision problems such as glaucoma, cataracts, or macular degeneration. These folks will still need to go to their local driver’s license renewal office.
Online renewal will be available as soon as HF 355 is signed by the Governor. In the meantime, take advantage of other online services currently offered through the Iowa Department of Transportation at https://mymvd.iowadot.gov.
Des Moines, IA 50319
2609 Clearview Drive
Burlington, IA 52601
Over the weekend I was giving some thought to how the Republicans have once more maneuvered Democrats into a situation where all but one option are pretty bad – should Democrats compromise to any meaningful degree on the Medicaid bill that the Iowa House passed then Medicaid itself is compromised.
Then it hit me – there was never meant to be any serious attempt to upgrade Medicaid in Iowa. Especially a Medicaid which would to some degree advance the Affordable Care Act which in turn would supposedly make Obama look good. If you haven’t paid attention for the past 4.5 years, the lone policy that the national Republican Party has had is to make the Obama administration unable to function. It makes no difference what the policy is, the lone Republican policy has been to obstruct passage of legislation or implementation of any legislation.
Up until now, enforcing the Republican policy to make Obama look bad has fallen on national Republicans – mostly Senate and House members and bureaucrats who have gone slow on enforcement. But when Chief Justice Roberts made his strange decision last year on the Affordable Care Act, he chose – totally re-interpretting the Act itself – that the Medicaid Expansion portion be left to states to decide how to implement. Thus a new group of Republicans were kicked into play who could try to put the hurt on an Obama aministration.
Thus after some mental wrangling, various Republican governors chose to address this decision in various ways. Some chose to accept Medicaid Expansion as given. Some chose to rewrite the terms, some chose to pass it to the legislature to deal with and some took a multiple approach. In Iowa, Gov. Branstad chose to do a rewrite and then let the legislature choose. This would do many things politically for him in playing up to ALEC and the money in the Republican Party:
1) It made Branstad look like he stood up to the horrible Obama
2) by creating anything it made him look like he actually cared
3) his staff could create a situation where it looked like Branstad wanted Medicaid, but Democrats were the obstacles in getting poor people health care.
And so Branstad and his staff went on to create one of the most odious bills ever to be sent to an Iowa legislature. And Republicans, being the totally ideologically driven party that allows no dissent lest they be primaried, passed the Branstad bill even though some of their leaders admitted to the stench. A stench that can be smelled across the state, even overpowering the pig manure Iowa is usually so famous for.
Now the Medicaid Expansion bill is in conference committee, the Senate having passed the Obama version, the House having passed the Branstad version. There are few similarities between the two. Since this is actually a national issue, I would expect Iowa Republicans to follow the lead of their national colleagues and refuse to compromise at all. Thus insisting that the odious version become the Medicaid bill for Iowa and thus helping the national party’s single policy objective of making Obama look bad.
So I look either for the conference committee to to be unable to compromise with Republicans accusing Democrats with refusing compromise. Based on the national Republican party’s general refusal to ever move positions and then claim it is the Democrats fault I expect this to be very likely. Another scenario is that a compromise is reached mostly based on the odious Branstad bill that causes Democrats to vote it down once again. A third possibility is a compromise based mostly on the ACA version, with Republicans voting it down.
In any scenario, there is a quite good chance that either a bill will not be passed or that Branstad will veto. In either case the end result will be what I believe Branstad was shooting for in the very beginning and that is to simply stop Medicaid in Iowa. Just saying so would have been too costly politically. To go through this whole scenario allows Branstad to stand above the fray looking like the reasonable one while still achieving his real goal. I am really getting jaded about Republicans and their motives anymore.
Congressman Latham Votes Against the Working Class of Iowa
Des Moines, IA – May 9th, 2013 – Congressman Tom Latham spoke loudly against workers’ rights on May 8th 2013 when he voted yea on HR 1406, “The Working Families Flexibility Act.” If this bill becomes law, private sector employers could assign overtime to those who “choose” to be paid with time off rather than those who prefer overtime pay (time and a half). If an employee works overtime and chooses the “time off” compensation, the company would have final authorization for requested days off. The flexibility – and power – is on the employer’s side, not the worker’s.
Gabriel De La Cerda had this response to the vote,
“This bill, if made law, would be a pay cut for working families all over the nation and a fundamental step backwards for workers’ rights. When Wall Street, Big Banks and Corporations have seen history-making profits, elected officials should not take money earned through overtime out of American worker’s pockets! With his vote, the quiet Congressman from Iowa’s third district made a loud statement for whom he works for and it’s not the working class of Iowa. Voters will remember in 2014.”
Twitter – @GabeDLC2DC
Phone – 563-676-2292
Email – GabeDLC2DC@gmail.com
After the U.S. Air Force removed 17 nuclear weapons launch officers from duty this week for marginal job performance skills, it should be a wake-up call. Lt. Col. Jay Folds, deputy commander of the 91st Operations Group, which is responsible for all Minuteman 3 missile launch crews at the Minot, N.D. Air Force Base, indicated there is “rot” in the force.
According to the Associated Press, “underlying the Minot situation is a sense among some that the Air Force’s nuclear mission is a dying field, as the government considers further reducing the size of the U.S. arsenal.”
Air Force Secretary Michael Donley was quoted, “it is the duty of commanders to ride herd on those young officers with this awesome responsibility of controlling missiles capable of destroying entire countries.” No sh*t Sherlock.
With all the public posturing about nuclear deterrence and missile defense in Washington, D.C., a simple truth is that the care-takers of our nuclear weapons program are not always the best. Situations like the one at Minot creates a risk of a nuclear mishap, which could have devastating consequences.
There has been a long history of nuclear weapons mishaps, and while some credit is due to the Air Force for inspecting and taking action regarding the program, as a taxpayer, one has to ask how did the men and women holding the nuclear umbrella get to be in such sorry shape?
Along with a changing climate, a nuclear weapons exchange is on the short list of things that could end life as we know it on the planet. Incidents like this week’s sidelining of nuclear weapons launch officers provide evidence that there is more risk than reward in the deployment and maintenance of a nuclear weapons program.
It is more reason to support the administration’s slow, but steady progress in moving toward a world without nuclear weapons.
The 2012 elections saw Latinos, the nation’s fastest growing electoral group, overwhelmingly vote for Obama. This result caused a Republican awakening as the party’s immigrant-bashing became a political liability. It now appears that a compromise bill with immigration reforms may become the framework for a new law.
The recently released Senate bill attracts the most attention while the House continues to work on its own version. Using complicated procedures, the proposed Senate legislation offers the hope of citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants. The main features of the bill include border security, visa guidelines, employment verification, and the much-debated path to citizenship.
The bill calls for tightening border security at the U.S.-Mexican border even though the Obama administration spent $18 billion on enforcement last year and deported a record 400,000. Border enforcement comes in the form of more surveillance, fencing, and patrols.
The reform bill creates a “registered provisional” status which allows undocumented individuals to stay in the United States without risk of deportation. This status requires paying a fine and back taxes, holding a job, and having a clean criminal record. After ten years, those who meet these criteria can apply for permanent resident visas, known as green cards, followed three years later by citizenship eligibility. The bill also increases the number of green cards for those stuck in backlogs for ten years or more.
The 13 year path to citizenship would be reduced for DREAMers, those who came without documentation before age 16, graduated from high school, and stayed in the U.S. for at least five years. DREAMers could apply for permanent residency after five years and citizenship immediately thereafter if they served two years in the military or completed two years of college.
The bill also creates three new worker programs for agricultural, “low-skilled,” and “high skilled” workers. More workers in these categories unlock the potential of the immigration system. They must, moreover, be paid at the same wage as other employees of similar experience or at the prevailing wage, whichever is higher.
The bill includes expanded workplace verification and entry/exit visa systems. Employers would be mandated to use an improved electronic system for determining the legal status of current and perspective employees.
The proposed legislation would profoundly affect the American economy. New jobs will be created and filled, new patents will be granted, and new businesses will be opened. The U.S. Treasury will collect more taxes, and younger, healthy workers will pay into Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.
The proposed legislation, however, faces treacherous legislative challenges. The only immigration reform some members of Congress would approve is improving border security. Others remain steadfastly opposed to any hint of what they call “amnesty.” Finally some will object to the cost, mostly for enforcement, estimated at $17 billion over 10 years.
The excitement generated by the comprehensive reform bill is tinged with disappointment caused by the length of the 13-year path to full citizenship and leaving out those who arrived after December 30, 2011. Others worry about scraping together enough money to pay taxes and fees needed to receive legal residency.
The reform bill fails to cover the 4.3 million LGBT people awaiting family reunification and wanting a chance at citizenship. Immigrants with provisional status would be subject to a punitive clause that makes them ineligible for any federal means-tested public benefits, such as food stamps.
The bill’s complicated provisions will ignite heated debate and passage remains uncertain. Still Senator Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey) argues that citizenship for immigrants without papers reflects four realities: “Americans support it, Latino voters expect it, Democrats want it, and Republicans need it.” The bill is a beginning, something to be nurtured and improved.
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.