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Americans Need To Work Together To Solve Our Nation’s Problems

together we will standLooking for a way forward, a new vision for our country calls us to step outside of our comfort zones.  How can we work together to solve our county’s problems? One of the first steps will be to properly identify problems, and their causes. Another is to let go of ideas that may have worked in our past, but aren’t working now – being willing to take pieces from our favorite “isms” and join them with others to form paths forward.

Could our national “character” use a little tweaking towards more gentleness and cooperation, and less fear and competitiveness?

Separating the ideals of how we would like government to work, from the pragmatics of what we actually have available to work with, and what is actually possible.

Can we solve the debt issue? If we (temporarily!) value the principle of low taxes less than the solving of our debt, yes we can! Through restructuring our tax systems (temporarily!) by raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy, and changing loopholes, we can erase our enormous debt.

While doing that, we also need to discuss the deficit in our budget using sound mathematics and accounting principles rather than ideological principles. We need to be willing to reassess priorities. We need to debate respectfully how our “scope of government” and “the general welfare” might be different in this century, from the time period when our nation began.

We spend a tremendous amount of money on public assistance of various kinds. Romney’s figure of 47% will do for an example. Mathematically, is this percentage of “non-producers” in our economy sustainable? Of course not! In a perfect world, that percentage would be zero, but that is not a realistic goal. This is where accurately identifying the underlying causes of this problem comes in if we want to lower that percentage permanently.

If we are assisting people who can’t make ends meet because they are not educated enough for “good jobs,” wouldn’t investing more up front for their education be both more economically sensible and offering them more dignity as humans? If we are assisting people who can’t keep a job due to health issues, isn’t investing in supportive, early intervention health care that keeps them more productive both more logical and dignified?

The only thing keeping us from investing properly in our citizens and our future, is our fixation on the principle of “making it on our own.”  This principle needs the perspective of properly defining average versus exceptional. Our American “rags to riches” dream celebrates the success of exceptional people. We are not all exceptional people. By definition, very few of us are exceptional. Most of us are average, some of us are below average, no matter what category we discuss.

Can we solve our off-kilter political system? To perfection, no. Since so many of us are too frustrated to participate in elections, should we come up with a different form of governing? Should we limit who “qualifies” to vote, or should we pay more than lip service to educating voters?

Governing, or managing happens. In business contexts, we value the concept of managing. We seem to view managing/governing in our civil lives as evil. Either we manage our society with accountable elected officials, or we let others manage it, i.e., religious groups or business interests who are not accountable to us.

Our management needs are different now than when we began and “small government” is another principle that distracts us from improving how government does its job.

Let us admit that we cannot reach any of our desired Utopias, and work on things we can fix, together.

Laura Twing



Why Senate Republicans Voted For Citizens United Debate

al frankenSince Al Franken was elected in 2008, he has rarely granted interviews to the national media, reflecting his commitment to be taken seriously as a senator who works for his constituents.   In this rare interview with Lawrence O’Donnell last night, he added some needed context to the seemingly inexplicable action of Senate Republicans voting to proceed with debate to consider overturning Citizens United.  The whole segment is well worth watching.  Here’s text of some highlights:

Lawrence:  The senate voted 79-18 to proceed to debate overturning CU.  Sen. Franken, how did you get 79 votes in the Senate?  This is astonishing.

Sen. Franken:

I don’t want to disillusion you, I know you were the staff director of the Finance Committee under Senator Moynihan. Procedural votes are sometimes taken for cycnical reasons. Every time we have tried to reverse Citizens United the Republicans have stopped us. I think this vote was to slow down action in the Senate on other things such as equal pay, student loans, minimum wage… Every time we’ve tried to reverse this horrible decision made on a 5-4 basis to put in undisclosed and unlimited amounts of money into campaigns we’ve been stopped by the Republicans and I would love to think we’re going to pass this but we’re not.

We will have 30 hours to debate and we plan to use that time to make our case.

This is about unlimited undisclosed money. The vast majority of Americans know that this is wrong. Between the presidential elections of 2008 and 2012 we saw outside money triple from 330 million to over a billion dollars and this is undisclosed, most of it. We don’t know who is putting the money in

I’ve been asking Americans to go to and sign the petition for reversing Citizens United. We’ve had over 600 thousand Americans sign up so far.

I don’t think we’re going to get the constitutional amendment through right away. But that’s why public opinion is so important because nothing moves politicians like public opinion.


‘Pivotal Moment’ For The Movement To Remove Big Money From Politics

John Nichols/The Nation

John Nichols/The Nation

It is always worth taking the time to read John Nichols.

The Senate will wrangle this week over whether to amend the Constitution to allow citizens and their representatives to organize elections where votes matter more than dollars.

The amendment that is being considered is a consequential, if relatively constrained, proposal, which focuses on core money in political concerns but which does not go as far as many Americans would like when it comes to establishing that money is not speech, corporations are not people and elections should not be up for sale to the highest bidder.

Yet it is difficult to underestimate the importance of the debate that will unfold this week. The debate signals that a grassroots movement has established the rational response to a political crisis created by US Supreme Court rulings (including, but certainly not exclusively, the Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions) that have opened the floodgates for domination of political debates by billionaire campaign donors and corporate cash.

Organizing and campaigning by citizens—working in conjunction with groups that has never been adequately funded, on a project that has never received a fair share of media attention—has gotten sixteen states and more than 600 towns, villages, cities and counties to demand an amendment. And the Senate is taking that demand seriously enough to propose a fix, to organize a debate and to schedule votes that will provide a measure of the prospects for making a democracy amendment the twenty-eighth addition to the Constitution.

Senator Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent who has proposed a more specific and aggressively worded amendment than the compromise measure that is expected to be considered this week, argues that this Senate debate on the issue of money in politics marks “a pivotal moment in American history.”

Though Sanders would go further than Democratic leaders in the Senate on a number of points, he has joined them in cosponsoring the amendment by New Mexico Senator Tom Udall that will be debated this week.

The Vermonter understands why this debate is so significant.

It is not because Senate consideration of the issue at this point will lead to the rapid amendment of the Constitution. In fact, no matter what Senate Democrats do, there will not be a sufficient majority in the chamber where a two-thirds vote is required to approve an amendment for consideration by the states. Nor is there any realistic chance that John Boehner will suddenly decide to lead the charge against the corporate campaign spending and billionaire manipulations that bought him the House speakership.

It is not because the amendment that is being advanced now is the amendment that will ultimately be added to the Constitution. Make no mistake, there will be a Twenty-Eighth Amendment; there must be if the American experiment is to survive as anything akin to a democratic republic. As with past amendments, however, this initial proposal for updating the Constitution will likely be altered—with language strengthened or weakened based on the ability of mass movements to place demands for more or less radical change

So why exactly is this a pivotal moment?

Because when a movement becomes sufficiently dynamic to force a Senate debate—after just four years of organizing by groups like Move to Amend, Free Speech For People, Public Citizen, Common Cause, People for the American Way and allied groups at the local and state levels—that debate ought not be seen as beginning or the end of anything. It is a part of a process—an essential teaching moment, an essential organizing moment.

“It’s overwhelmingly clear what the citizenry wants: fed up with a system in which the super-rich and giant corporations are effectively able to buy politicians and policy, the American people are rising up and demanding a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and restore our democracy,” explains Robert Weissman, the president of Public Citizen. “Whatever happens on (this week), the day is not long off when the 28th amendment becomes the law of the land.”

That’s what Sanders means when he speaks of a pivotal moment.

(click here to read the entire article)

IA-04: The Alliance for Retired Americans Endorses Jim Mowrer

Iraq War Veteran and congressional candidate Jim Mowrer has been endorsed by the Alliance for Retired Americans, an organization with more than 30,000 members in Iowa.

In a letter of endorsement, the organization wrote that Mowrer’s positions “demonstrate a strong commitment to improve the quality of life for older Americans,” and that “[his] leadership on issues such as preserving and protecting Social Security and Medicare from privatization and benefit cuts ensures these programs will be around for current and future generations.”

Jim Mowrer: “I am humbled that the Alliance for Retired Americans believes that my election to the House of Representatives will enhance the quality of life for older Americans. While Congressman Steve King continues to vote to cut Social Security benefits and end Medicare as we know it, I’m committed to preserving and strengthening Social Security programs for years to come.”

To view a copy of the letter, click here.

Jim Mowrer grew up on a farm in Boone, Iowa. He is a life-long resident of the 4th district.

When Jim was seven, he lost his father in a farming accident. Thanks to his father’s Social Security survivor benefits, Jim’s family was able to get back on its feet. Jim worked hard and graduated from Boone High School and married his high school sweetheart, Chelsey. Today they have two boys, Carter (6) and Jack (3).

A month after the Iraq war started, Jim joined the Iowa National Guard, eventually serving in Iraq with the 1-133 Infantry Battalion.

In 2010, Jim was asked to serve as the Special Assistant to the Under Secretary of the Army. At the Pentagon, Jim helped start and oversee the Army’s Office of Business Transformation – tasked with making the Army more effective, while saving tax dollars.

Jim Mowrer’s whole life has been about service to our country and protecting what makes America and Iowa great.

Why Is Kent Sorenson Worth $75,000?

Business_moneyKent Sorenson is a small player in a small state in the political game. Before he became a suspect in a bribery scheme there were probably only a few even in his own district who could tell you much about Sorenson, let alone outside his district.

I have found it really curious that a man who is so little known such as Sorenson could command a bribe equal to two years wages for many Iowans. This goes to show how a small player in a small state can loom large in an election system that skewered to small states early in the election cycle. This also helps illustrate how paltry $75,000 is in the world of big-time politics post Citizens United.

If you recall the 2012 Republican circus of a presidential primary process you remember that there were a bus full (many say a clown car full) of contenders. The winner in Iowa, even with a small percentage of caucus attenders and a small plurality, would be anointed with the mantle of leader. With that comes more serious scrutiny by the press and thus much more free publicity.

If a candidate can roll that into another win and another win, even a fringe candidate like Ron Paul – or his son Rand in 2016 – becomes a power to be reckoned with. If the candidate is able to rack up enough delegates to pull off the the nomination of the Republican Party, then he is one of only two people in this country that has a real chance to become president.

When it comes down to only two people, then happenings in day-to-day could have a major impact on who is eventually chosen. Thus even a long shot dark horse fringe player like Ron Paul, given a favorable set of circumstances and events, could become the president of the United States and the person who has some say and much input on how government money is spent and the direction of the country.

With rewards so huge and with so much money sloshing around in campaigns these days, a person like Kent Sorenson can suddenly become a key player despite being only lightly known. So $75,000 invested in a person who may be able to sway a few votes may be a really cheap cost in relation to the access it may lead to.

If $75,000 can buy a person’s integrity think what $250,000, $500,000 or millions can buy. While we like to believe that most people would not sell their souls for a bribe, when you start talking money that could equal a lifetime of earnings or could pay some major debts it is hard to tell what a person will decide in reality.

Money in politics is without a doubt one of the worst problems this country has. With the opening of the floodgates of money caused by the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United it has only gotten worse. The wealthy are pretty well assured they can buy politicians and get enough of them elected to stop any meaningful legislation, so the chances of this problem ever being addressed is low.

In a development that is not an out and out bribe, Eric Cantor left his congressional seat early following his defeat by an ultra right wing candidate in the Republican primary. Cantor’s new job will pay him $3.4 million this year lobbying for a Wall Street firm. Cantor is probably not worth that as a lobbyist, but there is probably some payments in there for services rendered as a congress person.

Sunday Funday: The Last Harkin Steak Fry

Senator Tom Harkin

Senator Tom Harkin

In case you forgot today is the last annual Harkin Steak Fry. This is an annual fundraiser that helps pay a lot of bills for the Iowa Democratic Party. We can’t go this year due to previous commitments, but we do encourage all others. In case you hadn’t heard (do you live in a cave?) the headliners this year are that family from Arkansas, the Clintons.

We have been to a couple of these events. Always ran into friends from across the state. This was the main attraction for us. We did see an up and comer from Chicago name of Obama one year. I think that odd name may have held him back from going anywhere in politics.

Were you paying attention last week?

1) First the bad news. Oktoberfests in Germany are being threatened by a strike by the makers of what?

2) Jack Hatch claimed Branstad “can’t buy back his integrity.” What was Hatch referring to?

3) Eric Cantor couldn’t wait to leave his old job to get to his new job. How much will Cantor make in his first year as a Wall Street lobbyist?

4) Mitch McConnell’s campaign manager quit. This man is the central figure in the bribery conviction of what former Iowa state senator?

5) Amid crises in the Ukraine, Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq what group met in Wales last week?

6) A federal judge in New Orleans ruled Thursday that what company was guilty of “gross negligence” in the 2010 Gulf oil spill?

7) What would be football pioneer was released by the Rams and is now a free agent?

8) What scion of a notable American political family left her job as an NBC reporter, raising speculation one of her parents would run for president?

9) Thursday marked a major job action by workers in what industry?

10) Spontaneous combustion was blamed for a fire near Sioux Center that burned a large amount of what?

11) From the governor’s mansion to the jail house. The last governor of what state is now facing decades in jail after being convicted of corruption?

12) In a major breach of privacy what were leaked and posted on the internet?

13) President Obama pledged to defend what states against a threat from Russia?

14) A judge in Chicago had a two-fer Thursday when he overturned gay marriage bans in what two states at one time?

15) What company announced the siting of its giant battery factory in Nevada after a huge multi-state competition?

As most know, Joan Rivers died last week. She was truly a unique personality.

Now for some answers:

1) Pretzels. Pretzel bakers are threatening a strike just before Oktoberfest.

2) The hush money scandal that continues to swirl around the Branstad administration.

3) $3.4 million. That is about $10,000 a day.

4) Kent Sorenson


6) BP. finally someone is standing up to them.

7) Michael Sam

8) Chelsea Clinton.

9) Fast food industry protesting low wages.

10) Corn, about 2.7 million bushels.

11) Virginia. Governor Bob McDonnell

12) private celebrity nude photos, apparently hacked from a cloud storage site.

13) the Baltic states (Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia)

14) Indiana and Wisconsin

15) Tesla. The plant is expected to employ 6,500.

Should be good fall weather for the Harkin event. I hope everyone enjoys it.

Kudos to Bolkcom, Courtney And Hogg

Sen. Joe Bolkcom

Sen. Joe Bolkcom

Three Iowa Democratic senators will attempt to keep food and transportation expenses to a week to $77, approximately the amount that those living on minimum wage in Iowa has in their budgets for those items. While it can never be an apples to apples test, we salute them for at least making the attempt.
State senators Joe Bolkcom of Iowa City, Robb Hogg of Cedar Rapids and Tom Courtney of Burlington will take the challenge issued by Progress Iowa and Iowa Citizen’s Action Network.

rob hogg

From the Radio Iowa report on this story:
“I would love it if even the opponents of raising the minimum wage would at least attempt this,” Sinovic says, “because I think they’d be much better informed when they come back to the legislature next session and decide whether to raise the minimum wage.”

Progress Iowa and other liberal activist groups have formed a “Raise the Wage Iowa Coalition” and they are calling on elected officials in Iowa to live on the minimum wage for a week.

“I would just challenge every Iowan to think about: ‘What would you do with $77 a week?’” says Sue Dinsdale of the Iowa Citiens Action Network. “You don’t have to literally take the challenge…Then sit back and think about your friends and neighbors that are trying to survive on that small amount of money.”

Brad Anderson’s Positive Campaign

In a day when the negative campaigning is the coin of the realm, Brad Anderson is a pleasant change. His campaign for Secretary of State focuses around the good things he will bring to the office.

Anderson proposes making it more accessible for Iowans to vote, especially for military. This is in stark contrast to the Republican candidate who has said he approves of the fruitless and costly witch hunt of the =current SoS. Right there is one major reason to vote for Anderson.

Anderson also proposes bringing Iowa’s business registration process into the 21st century. This is a major step and one I am sure the business community can get behind.

Anderson – making Iowa work for Iowans. What a great concept.

Here is his new campaign video illustrating his commitment to changing Iowa’s business registration laws:

Whatever Happened To Family Values?

ACA logic by republicans
Let’s talk kitchen table issues. Let’s get real about what they are and who supports the side of the issue that will really help families stay together, grow and prosper. American families have been so beat down by Republicans claiming to be a party of family values while doing all they can to create conditions that lead to the dissolution of families and the consequent costs to the individuals affected and the costs to society as a whole.

The very first issue is money – how to get it and how to be able to buy the essential goods and services that people need to survive and thrive in a family. Democrats since the days of FDR right through the present have championed decent wages for all regardless of race or sex, and the formation of unions to help workers to bargain collectively for good wages and working conditions. Republicans have fought tooth and nail to bust unions, and make it possible for employers to pay the lowest wages possible. Nothing will break up a family quicker than money problems.

A subset of this is programs for those in a society unable to work due to disabilities, age, lack of skills or loss of job. Do I need to tell you that Republicans are doing all they can to kick these folks to the curb and take away any safety net for these folks even tough in the case of lost jobs they have been primarily responsible for jobs being sent out of the country. Republicans are also doing all they can to end Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid unemployment insurance and food benefits. These are programs that have been designed to aid folks when they are not productive. All have been quite sustainable and have been instrumental in keeping families together in tough times.

Education is also a major issue at the kitchen table. Will the local school be adequate so our kids can be competitive? Can we afford college when the time comes? Will the costs of education put our kids in debt forever? Republicans have done all they can to ruin public schools so their corporate buddies can rake off tax dollars as so called charter schools. They have done away with affordable loans for college and made it impossible to discharge college debt even after death. Costs have skyrocketed for college because state and federal aid has dried up, thus putting the cost out of reach for middle class and below. Democrats have proposed legislation to deal with many of these issues but the Great Republican Obstruction Machine has stopped any attempt to remedy these problems.

While Republicans have blocked education at every turn, they are in favor of building and creating a privatized prison system. If a child doesn’t get a chance in school, prison may be in their future. It costs so much more to house an inmate than to educate a child. But children do donate to campaigns.

Another major problem is making the weekly check stretch. Fixed bills like rent, heat and lights, car and gas to get around have gone up dramatically while paychecks haven’t. Republicans continue to block any investigations of things like commodities while doing all they can to bust any forms of collective bargaining. Look at the spate of states trying to pass so-called “right to work” laws which drive wages down. Also remember that Republicans are the ones that smoothed the way for sending good American jobs to the lowest bidder overseas.

What about the aging parents? Republicans have done all they can to kill Social Security for 80 years and Medicare and Medicaid for 50 years. They will continue to aggressively stalk these programs to kill them while claiming they are “protecting” them. That is Joni Ernst’s word. She cynically used it as she used her parents in an ad claiming her support for Social Security. Her mother should wash her mouth out with soap. Do I need to tell you that Democrats not only created these programs, but support them to the fullest.

Probably the most important overlying issue that not only threatens families but life on earth itself is climate change. Do I need to tell you that Republicans deny, deny, deny climate change is happening even while sea water fills Miami streets daily? They do so because their owners in the oil industry need them to block any energy plans that would be more earth friendly and common sense.

This is only a short list. No doubt your family has more specific problems you talk over at the table. Have you ever discussed how your issue relates to policies of our governments at various levels and what either party is doing to address it? If you are honest in your evaluation, you will see that Democrats have worked to solve problems only to have Republicans totally block solutions or make the solution very messy.

Evaluate your kitchen table issues and I believe you will see that Democrats are working to solve problems while Republicans are working to create problems or make current problems worse.Jobs, education, health care, retirement.

What happened to the Republican push for their Family Values just a few years ago? It was always just a diversion to make people believed they care while they were stealing the middle class blind and passing it on to their wealthy corporate donors.

Here is Thom Hartmann with a clip of Teddy Roosevelt over a hundred years ago discussing a living wage (4 minutes).

You will see that from today’s Democrats, but not from Republicans.

September Climate Advocacy Update For Iowa

rob hoggSenator Rob Hogg’s Climate Advocacy Update:

This is the only climate advocacy update I plan to prepare for the month of September because of other commitments I have. Here are some key action items for the month:

August Recess for Congress Through September 7 – It is not too late to call our Congressional representatives and Senators to urge their support for climate action during the August recess. Here are local in-state phone numbers where you can leave a comment or arrange a meeting:

Rep. Bruce Braley, Cedar Rapids Office, 319-364-2288
Rep. Dave Loebsack, Iowa City Office, 319-351-0789
Rep. Tom Latham, Des Moines Office, 515-282-1909
Rep. Steve King, Sioux City Office, 712-224-4692
Senator Chuck Grassley, Des Moines Office, 515-288-1145
Senator Tom Harkin, Des Moines Office, 515-284-4574

Please report your calls and meetings back to me so I can track them.

Citizens Climate Lobby Monthly Meetings – Citizens Climate Lobby chapters will be having monthly meetings around the state, including Des Moines on Saturday, September 6, from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the North Side Library, 3516 Fifth Avenue, in Des Moines. CCL in Cedar Rapids will be meeting Tuesday, September 16, at 7:00 p.m. in the second floor un-conference room of the downtown library. Check to join an introductory call or for details about meetings in other communities in Iowa.

“Future of Energy” Film Showing Sept. 13 and Sept. 14 – On Saturday, September 13, this movie will be shown in Sussman Theater in the Olmsted Center at Drake University at 7:00 p.m. It will be shown again at First Unitarian Church, 1800 Bell Avenue, in Des Moines on Sunday, September 14, at 6:00 p.m.

Iowa Interfaith Power & Light Conference Featuring Sally Bingham, Sept. 18 – Iowa IPL is holding its annual conference on Thursday, September 18, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Tiferath Israel Synagogue, 924 Polk Blvd, in Des Moines. Registration is $40. The conference will feature the Rev. Sally Bingham, the founder and president of the Regeneration Project, which founded the Interfaith Power & Light movement. Isaac Luria of Auburn Seminary in New York City will also be speaking. To register, or for more information, visit

Iowa IPL is also sponsoring workshops on Food, Faith, and Climate in Waterloo on Saturday, September 20, and in Decorah on Saturday, September 27. Cost is $35 each. Check the website for more details or to register in advance.

Train to People’s Climate March, Sept. 20-21 – Multiple organizations have come together to organize the People’s Climate March in New York City, September 20-21. Trains to New York City are available from Iowa. Contact Jennifer K. at 415-766-7728 or by email at, or visit:

#B4UMarch Campaign – Call Congress Sept. 15-19 – Regardless of whether you are able to attend the People’s Climate March, it is critical that Congress hear from Americans that we support climate action. Using the hash tag, #B4UMarch, I am encouraging people to take a few minutes and call their state’s Congressional representatives and Senators at their Washington, DC offices the week before the People’s Climate March. In Iowa, we can reach them at the following numbers:

Congressman Tom Latham, 202-225-5476
Congressman Bruce Braley, 202-225-2911
Congressman Dave Loebsack, 202-225-6576
Congressman Steve King, 202-225-4426
Senator Chuck Grassley, 202-224-3744
Senator Tom Harkin, 202-224-3254

Please encourage your friends, family, and colleagues across Iowa and around the country to call their Congressional representatives and Senators, too.

Again, please report your calls back to me so I can track them – there is nothing wrong with calling twice a month to urge action.

EPA Carbon Pollution Rules – Comments Due October 16 – On Twitter, I am using the hash tag, #StopCarbonPollution, to support the carbon pollution rules. Comments are due October 16. You can share comments through Iowa IPL or the League of Conservation Voters, or you can send comments directly to the EPA at this web address:

The bottom line: Let the EPA know you support the rules as an important next step, and share your comments with our Congressional delegation, too.

Organize A Remembrance of Hurricane Sandy October 29 – October 29 marks the two-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, a storm that brought an unprecedented storm surge to New York City, New Jersey, and much of the East Coast, killed 118 Americans, and caused over $70 billion in damage – more than $200 per American. Iowa, like other states, has suffered from climate-related disasters, especially floods, drought, and ecological disruptions. Several national groups are planning to remember the victims of these climate-related disasters on October 29. Let me know if you would like to help coordinate efforts around the state to remember Hurricane Sandy or just start making your plans for a local remembrance today.

Be A Climate Voter November 4 – You can sign up to be a “climate voter” through NextGen Climate at the following web address:

Citizens Climate Lobby Regional Conference, Des Moines, November 7 to 9 – Mark your calendars now for the CCL regional conference in Des Moines Nov. 7 to 9.

I hope this information is helpful. Thank you for your advocacy in support of the climate action we so urgently need.


Senator Rob Hogg
Cedar Rapids, Iowa